Dvar Torah by Rabbi Zelig Pliskin
During our 40 years sojourn in the desert, we were attacked by the nation of Amalek. While the battle took place, Moshe stood on the top of a hill and raised his hands towards the heavens. This reminded the Jewish people to subject their hearts to the Almighty so that they would succeed and be victorious over Amalek. The Torah states:
“And the hands of Moshe were heavy and they took a rock and placed it under him and he sat on it” (Exodus 17:12).
Why did Moshe sit on a rock and not on pillows?
Rashi, the great commentator, informs us that Moshe sat on a rock and not on pillows because he did not want to sit in comfort while Jews were in danger and suffering. He wanted to feel their suffering and to share it. Rabbi Yeruchem Levovitz teaches that this is a lesson for us regarding how to feel another person’s suffering. Don’t just imagine the pain of another but do something physically to actually feel his pain.
Empathy is such an important attribute that we should make every effort to feel for another person. By being aware of how a little discomfort bothers us, we can have greater empathy for others — especially those coming to our door or meeting us in the street asking for tzedakah (charity)!
An egotistical person only cares about his own welfare and is totally uninterested in anyone else’s difficulties and problems. He only wants to make certain that he is comfortable. If he is in any distress, he no longer can think about the suffering of others. Here we see that in order to feel someone else’s suffering, we should go out of our way to make ourselves a little less comfortable when others are suffering. Our own distress is more real than someone else’s. By being aware of how a little discomfort bothers us, we can have greater empathy for others!