Noticing the Pain of Others

Yael Eckstein  |  December 10, 2020

mother daughter hugging. The LORD said to Moses, “Take vengeance on the Midianites for the Israelites. After that, you will be gathered to your people.” — Numbers 31:1-2
Mother and teenage daughter giving each other a big hug.

So he asked Pharaoh’s officials who were in custody with him in his master’s house, “Why do you look so sad today?” — Genesis 40:7

Each week in synagogue, Jews read through the Torah from Genesis to Deuteronomy. The Torah portion for this week is Vayeshev, which means “and he lived,” from Genesis 37:1—40:23.

My abba, father, Rabbi Yechiel Eckstein, was an extraordinary person who helped hundreds of thousands of people in his lifetime. As his daughter, I was privileged to see up close how much he sincerely cared for all people. Whenever we passed by a homeless person on the street, my father would stop even as everyone else passed by. He would give the person some money, but perhaps even more importantly, he gave them his ear. He wanted to know the stranger’s name and how they were doing. I saw many homeless men and women transform from looking dejected to looking joyful after just a few moments of my father’s genuine care.

In this week’s Torah portion, we learn that Joseph was sold by his brothers and then unfairly imprisoned in Egypt. He must have felt incredibly broken and upset about his life. Yet, that didn’t prevent him from noticing the pain of others and caring about them. While in prison, Joseph noticed that two of his fellow inmates looked upset. He asked them, “Why do you look so sad today?” and listened as they unburdened their hearts. Joseph genuinely cared about others.

Notice the Pain of Others

Joseph was able to interpret the troublesome dreams that the baker and cupbearer shared with him. Ultimately, this interaction is what brought Joseph to interpret Pharaoh’s dreams and catapulted him into the second most powerful position in Egypt. As a result, when Joseph’s family faced life-threatening famine, they were able to take refuge in Egypt where Joseph had prepared ample food and mercifully welcomed them in.

Sometimes, we go through life so focused on our own problems that we don’t notice when someone else is hurting. Or we notice, but we don’t take the time to ask how they are doing and listen to what’s on their heart. But as Joseph’s story teaches us, no matter how challenging our own situation might be, we need to notice the pain of others and take time to show others genuine care.

Moreover, we can never underestimate the power of asking about another person’s well-being. It could save a life, or as it did in Joseph’s case, positively influence more lives than we could ever imagine.

Your Turn:

Who in your life might need some genuine care and a listening ear? Take time to reach out to that person — whether it’s through text, email, or in person. Check in on someone who might need someone to talk to — and take the time to listen with genuine concern and care.

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