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See the Pain of Others

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At midday you will grope about like a blind person in the dark. You will be unsuccessful in everything you do; day after day you will be oppressed and robbed, with no one to rescue you. Deuteronomy 28:29

The Torah portion for this week is Ki Tavo, which means "when you have entered," from Deuteronomy 26:1-29:8, and the Haftorah is from Isaiah 60:1-22.

Many years ago, a friend who was very distraught called me. He had just discovered that his teenage daughter had been struggling with bulimia for almost a year. During this time, my friend hadn't realized how his daughter would disappear after meal times to the bathroom for a prolonged amount of time. He hadn't noticed that his daughter had grown withdrawn and quiet. But what upset him the most was that he was a medical professional, well-versed in eating disorders: "She is my own daughter! How can it be that I didn't know?"

So many people in this world suffer in silence, and sometimes, those people are living in our own homes.

In this week's Torah portion, we read both the blessings for obedience and the curses for disobedience. Among the curses for being disobedient, we read: "At midday you will grope about like a blind person in the dark." If the cursed individual is blind, why does it matter whether it is midday or night? For the blind person, it is always dark!

One Jewish sage explained how this verse confused him until he came across a blind man walking with a torch at night. The sage asked him, "My son, what good is a torch to you if you cannot see?" The blind man responded, "With the torch, I still cannot see. However, other people can see me, and when they do, they look out for me and make sure that I don't get into harm's way."

Now the sage could understand the curse in the verse. It's one thing not to be able to see. In this case, it figuratively describes people's state when they are confused or blinded to the truth. They can't see what's good for them or what's bad for them. They are at great risk for harming themselves, and they suffer in the pain of not knowing what to do with their lives or how to lead joyful, meaningful lives. However, what is even worse is not being seen. Like a blind man at midday, there are those who suffer in broad daylight, but whose pain remains unseen.

Whether it is the thousands of nameless victims of terror across the world, a colleague at our workplace, or even members of our own family, we have to look out to see what is not easily seen. We have to hear the cries that are not easily heard. It might be God's decision for a person to suffer, but it is still our duty to alleviate the suffering. Look deeper, listen more intently, and see beyond the surface. We can be the one to act and save a hurting soul.

With prayers for shalom, peace,

Rabbi Yechiel Eckstein
Founder and President

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