The Spiritual Importance of Empathy: Learning from Moses in Shemot by Rick Davis – PAROUSIA Magazine

The portion Shemot tells the famous story of the birth of Moses, his being taken into Pharaoh’s home, and how he was eventually chosen to lead the Israelites out of exile. This portion, therefore, teaches us about leadership, and reveals a very important tool that Moses used to become the one to lead the Israelites out of exile, and one that we can all learn from.

“Moses is teaching us here one of the most important spiritual lessons.”

In life, we are all leaders with different spheres of leadership, meaning that we each have the ability to teach or assist different amounts of people. Understanding this, we realize how important it is for us to develop our own leadership abilities. And a powerful way to do that is by studying Moses, one of the greatest leaders.

So, the portion Shemot says, “Moses grew up and went out to his brethren and observed their suffering…” The Midrash explains that Moses did not simply happen to see his people suffer; rather, he specifically went out to see their suffering and “focused his eyes and heart to pain for them.” What the Midrash is telling us here is that Moses knew of the hardship that was constantly befalling his brethren, and he also felt their pain. But if that was the case, why, then, did he feel the need to go out and see what was happening, and to focus his eyes and heart to feel the pain?

“It is not enough just to know about the pain that is in this world.”

Moses is teaching us here one of the most important spiritual lessons. Those of us who are involved in spiritual work know that a great part of our growth is dependent on how much we push ourselves to assist others, both spiritually and physically. Yet the reality is that most of us fall very short in this area. We are aware that there is pain and suffering throughout the world, and we know that by revealing more of the Light of the Creator in the world, through spiritual work, we can remove some of the darkness that causes it. However, with all of this understanding, we still do not push ourselves enough to do whatever we can to eliminate some of the pain and suffering that is in the world.

Moses shows us in this portion that it is not enough just to know about the pain that is in this world; we have to truly focus our eyes and heart on it. Our Desire to Receive for the Self Alone, which will not let us lift a finger if not for our own sake, is strong enough that even our awareness of pain won’t assist us in breaking our nature and going out to help others completely. As such, we need to constantly remind ourselves to focus our eyes and heart on the pain; in so doing, we can possibly break our ego and push ourselves to assist others. It is a very important lesson.

The way we can achieve a true feeling of others’ pain, that will in turn push us to go outside of our comfort zones and really share, is if we follow Moses’ example. And on Shabbat Shemot we can ask for – and receive – his assistance to focus our eyes and heart on the world’s pain and suffering.


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