This Parsha this week is Parshas Shemos. In the Parsha the Torah tells us of the beginning of the “career” of Moshe Rabainu, or as he is better known, Moses. When Moses was born, there was a decree by Pharaoh, the wicked Egyptian king, to kill every Jewish baby boy that was born. Yocheved, the mother of Moses, had a baby boy. She hid him for three months, but could no longer do so. She then fashioned a small little cradle of material that could float, and put it in the Nile River. Miriam, the sister of Moses, stayed at the edge of the river to see what would happen. As the story unfolds, Batya, the daughter of king Pharaoh, comes to bathe in the river. As she is standing by the river, she hears the cry of a child. She discovers the young Jewish boy and has pity upon him. In the end, she adopts him, and raises him in the house of King Pharaoh himself.
When Moses gets a little older, the Torah tells us that he “went out to his brothers” (Exodus 2:11). Our Sages describe his actions in the following statement: “He gave his eyes and heart to feel pain for them”. This idea is meant to describe a person who is perfectly comfortable in his own situation and surroundings, but nevertheless lifted himself up above his own personal concerns to worry about others. Moses was very comfortable in the home of Pharaoh. He didn’t have to worry or think about anyone else. Nevertheless, he looked beyond his own personal needs and felt the pain of others. This was a real pain, not just giving lip service to caring about someone else’s misfortunes. For someone to leave a King’s palace, to place himself in danger to help other Jews for no ulterior motivation, is truly amazing. There are no words for this noble trait but to say that Moses was truly a full-fledge Ohaiv Yiroel – someone who really loved and felt for his fellow Jew.
Right after this incident, the Torah tells us that G-d heard the cries of the oppressed and enslaved Jewish people, and “G-d knew”. (Exodus 2:25) What does it mean that “G-d knew”? Doesn’t G-d know everything? Indeed, the Omnipotence of G-d is one of our thirteen basic principles of Jewish faith! Rashi quotes the words of our Sages, that G-d
“set upon them His heart and didn’t close His eyes”. Obviously, this is just an analogy for us to understand what happened. G-d has no physical dimensions or limitations, no heart or eye. The Torah is just conveying to us the fact that Hashem now acted in a way that we would refer to as opening the eyes and heart to. However, the language between the two reactions, of Hashem and of Moses, is amazingly similar. Indeed, the commentaries point out, that the endless limit of merit that we can have by caring for another is apparent here. Because Moses cared about the plight of others, because Moses looked beyond his own personal needs, because Moses saw and felt the pain of other Jews, he had the merit to redeem the Jewish people; to lead them to the land of Israel; and to get the Torah for them. Not only that, but the empathy that Moses had for other Jews he aroused the empathy and mercy of Hashem to the Jewish people and brought about their redemption.
This is the lesson of the endless merit that we can bring upon ourselves and the world when we are carful to empathize and care for others.