Showing Extra Sensitivity to Others (The Sages Of Mussar – Mishpatim)

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This week’s Torah reading states: Do not afflict any widow or orphan (Shemos 22:21). The injunction implores us to show extra care to widows and orphans because they are very delicate and more vulnerable than other people. However, this instruction is not limited to the compassionate treatment of widows and orphans. Included in this verse is the admonition to be careful not to cause distress to any human being.

The following passage sheds light on the extraordinary degree of sensitivity for others that the Torah advocates:

Our Sages tell us that the Romans brought false charges against Rabbi Yishmael and Rabbi Shimon, and sentenced them to death. As the Romans were leading them to their execution, Rabbi Shimon said to Rabbi Yishmael, “Rabbi, I am anxious because I don’t know what sin has warranted my death.”

Rabbi Yishmael responded, “Was there ever an occasion when someone came to ask you for a ruling, and you made them wait while you briefly attended to some personal need? The Torah warns us not to afflict a person – no matter how mild the affliction.”

Rabbi Shimon then said, “Rabbi, you have comforted my spirit.”

How insistent the Torah is that we treat others with sensitivity! For causing someone slight anguish by making them wait a few moments-Rabbi Shimon felt his sentence was justified!

Of course, the Torah does not hold us to the same level of culpability that it does the perfectly righteous scholars who lived some two thousand years. Nevertheless, we understand from this incident how careful we should be with every human being.

May we merit not hurting or causing them even the slightest pain. If we are fully sensitive and compassionate to every individual, then, we will bring much happiness to the world. In turn, Hashem will bestow his unending mercy and kindness upon us. (based on Da’as Torah of  Rabenu Yerucham HaLevi, Shemos 235)

Today: Show extra sensitivity and care to every person.

Copyright © 2010 by Rabbi Zvi Miller and the Salant Foundation

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