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Parashat Vaera – Empathy

אֵלֶּה רָאשֵׁי בֵית אֲבֹתָם בְּנֵי רְאוּבֵן

These are the heads of their fathers’ houses: The sons of Reuven…


The Torah goes through the families of the Jewish Nation. The Shelah points out an interesting point here. When introducing the tribes of Reuven and Shimon, the Torah says “the heads of their fathers’ houses.” When introducing the tribe of Levi, the Torah simply says “these are the names of Levi’s sons.” No reference is given to their status. He explains that though the tribe of Levi wasn’t enslaved the way the other tribes were, Levi wanted to “take part” in the suffering of his brothers. He named his sons Gershon, Kehat, and Merari. Gershon referencing the fact that they were strangers in another land, Kehat referenced their weakened  state, and Merari was a reminder of the bitterness that filled their lives. The Torah is highlighting their actual names as opposed to their status to show us this point.

A family went on a cruise for their vacation. One night they were rudely awakened by flashing lights and loud sirens which thoroughly disturbed their peaceful vacation. Upon investigation they discovered that there was a fellow drilling holes into the bottom of his cabin. The captain and many passengers were there and were demanding an explanation from the guy. “None of your business” was his snide response, “I’m just drilling into my own cabin, this doesn’t concern you.” Anyone familiar with the most basic of observable nature around us realizes the foolishness of his claims. He may have just been drilling in his cabin, but that act can sink the entire ship!

Levi realized, as we all should, that we are all in the same boat. The suffering of another member of our nation is our suffering as well. He took this to heart and named his children in a way that wouldn’t allow him or them to forget and ignore the suffering of their brethren.


Shabbat Shalom

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