Parsha Shemot – Be sensitive to the suffering of others
This week’s Parsha Sehmot starts with the names of Children of Israel. Every Person is Important. Every Person has to get out their personal Slavery. Slavery comes in many Forms. We all enslaved in some way.
The Children of Israel were Enslaved. Slavery occurred in civilizations as old, and we all know a bit of the history of the African Slave. Even today there Is Slavery.
There are an estimated 21 million to 45 million people trapped in some form of slavery today. It’s sometimes called “Modern-Day Slavery” and sometimes “Human Trafficking." At all times it is slavery at its core.
Poverty, limited opportunities at home, lack of education, unstable social and political conditions, economic imbalances and war are some of the key drivers that contribute to someone’s vulnerability in becoming a victim of modern slavery. For More
Judaism and the Parsha treats us to be sensitive to the pain of others. The following Dvar Torahs from Rabbi Shlomo Carlebach highlights the sensitivity here.
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THE DEATH OF HUMANITY
…the king of Egypt died…(Sh’mos 2:23)
Do you know what happened to us when we came out of Auschwitz?
We didn't walk out completely free. We still thought, “What's so bad about our world, about Western civilization?” Now don't get me wrong. Our world is okay if you know how to take it. Medicine is good but you have to know how many pills to take.
The Rambam was a wonderful doctor. The Lubavitcher Rebbe was a great engineer. But this is not what I mean by “western civilization.” I am talking about what the world thinks about humanity.
According to the Ishbitzer, the Torah says, “vayamas Melech Mitzrayim” – “And the king of Egypt, died.” But really Pharaoh was still alive. That says, and only he can say such a thing. The Ishbitzer says – and only he can say such a thing – that “vayamas Melech Mitzrayim” means that everything human in him died. Everything human died. He was not a human being anymore.
All the Rebbes say that before we left Egypt, G-d had to show us how bad Pharaoh was. We still thought: “Okay, maybe he's harsh, but he does give us Shabbos off.” Or we thought: “Okay, he's cruel but at least he gives us straw to make the bricks.”
So Pharaoh decreed, “For three days there will be no straw for bricks and no Shabbos.” During those three days, the Yidden worked for Pharaoh during the day. But after the daytime work was done, any Egyptian had the right to force a Yid to work all night. How long can anyone function like this? It was not human!
So G-d said, “I have to take them out from the depths. I want them to know there is another way.”
Please don't get me wrong. I love the world and I know there are a lot of good people. But even their own goodness in some way comes from G-d speaking to us on Mount Sinai and teaching us the right way to live. In the same way that G-d's voice is still being heard all over the world today.
When we look at the world it has to be clear to us. Which side are we on…which side are we on?
I want to bless you and me that G-d should take us out of the abyss, the abyss of inhumanity. What was the beginning of Yiddishkeit? It was with Avraham Avinu . What a human being he was. What a person! Avraham Avinu had a heart for everyone…even for the lowest pagans in the world.
But the other side - those on the other side - don't care if millions of people are dying. And not only the peoples of other nations, they don't even care about their own people. They don't care about anyone or anything. Nothing!
We all have to stand up for the good. We have to thank the Master of the World for choosing us from all the nations and giving us His Torah. And we have to hope and pray that one day, one day soon, all the nations of the world will join us, so that together with all the good people of the nations, we can create a world that mamesh cares.
SEARCHING FOR A LEADER
And Moshe was shepherding the sheep of Yisro…(Sh’mos 3:1)
Imagine if today we were looking for somebody to save the world. What kind of person what do we look for? We would want someone who looks very intelligent and who is handsome and a good speaker. A real polished personality.
But when G-d looks for a leader, this is not what He is looking for. When G-d wanted to find someone to take the Jews out of Egypt, He was looking for something else.
Do you know why Moshe was chosen?
The Medrash says (Sh’mos Rabbah 2:2) that says that Moshe was a shepherd. His father-in-law lived on Mount Sinai and he used to take his father-in-law’s sheep out on the mountain to graze. One day a little sheep ran off. Moshe Rabbeinu started running after the sheep, calling it all kinds of sweet names and saying, “Please come back, please come back.”
The sheep ran all the way up to the top of Mount Sinai. It found a tiny little lake and stopped to drink and Moshe found it there. He waited until it finished drinking. He then took the sheep, put it over his shoulders, and he said to the sheep, “You poor little thing. You must be so tired after all that running.”
Then Moshe looked fondly at the sheep and said, “My sweetest sheep, I wish we could talk to each other.”
At that moment, G-d said to the angels, “If Moshe takes such good care of sheep, can you imagine how well he will take care of My children?”
And that was the moment that G-d appeared to Moshe Rabbeinu at the burning bush.
I bless you and me that we should always talk to each other, and know that we are G-d’s children.