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Empathy, A Valuable Quality…

Published on Monday May 13th, 2019

When I heard this story, I was touched. When I was told it was a true story, I was shocked. I then understood that we all have in each of us this power, this strength, this quality ... that can change a destiny!

A Heart that Saved a Life…

A young American living in New York was learning in Yeshiva. The poor boy suffered from a terrible depression to the point that one day he confided to his friends that he was thinking of committing suicide. Distraught, his friends managed to convince him to go and talk to Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneerson, the Lubavitcher Rebbe.

In a private interview, the young man repeated his words to the Rebbe. He told him about all his pain and that he wanted to put an end to his life. The Lubavitcher Rebbe listened to the student and tears began to flow down his face. The Rebbe cried for long minutes, unable to utter a word. The young man then fled from his office, upset to the depths of his being.

When he returned to Yeshiva, his anxious friends came to hear what had happened. He told them that he no longer intended to end his life: he wanted to live! Happy but surprised, his friends asked him what had happened in the Rabbi's office. He told them the scene and added as a conclusion: "If I had known earlier that there is a person who cares so much about me, I would never have thought of ending my life."

The stories about the miracles of the Rebbe are many, but it touched me because the only power he used to save this young man's life was...empathy!

You, Will, Love Your Neighbor as Yourself

In the Sefer Hachinuch (Mitzvah 243), the commandment: "You will love your neighbor as yourself" indicates what Hashem expects from others.

Why impose this Mitzvah on us? Why not just encourage us to be polite and nice to others? No! It is truly a commandment from Hashem, which asks us to know how to love others as much as we love ourselves (so potentially without limit!).

The Master of the world reveals here one of the keys to His creation: one of the pillars on which the world rests is Chessed, which is itself generated by empathy. When we show consideration to others, whether with a smile or with a few words, we convey the implicit message that this person is important, that he has value, and all of us need this recognition! Hashem is teaching us an important lesson here.

A man who offers his friend the best gift of the world with a sad face is considered as having given him nothing; however, whoever does so with a happy face, even if gives almost nothing, is considered to have offered him the most beautiful presents in the world! (Rabbi Nathan of Breslev) It is not enough to be generous. Giving a gift without empathy is like passing an object from one hand to another. Whereas on the contrary, being able to rejoice for the other, to take part in another's joy when one gives him a gift, a smile or attention is more precious than any other gift, and it is usually the memory of this gift that will remain long after it was received.

The Power of Empathy

Like the beautiful story above of the Lubavitcher Rebbe, empathy is more than an emotion felt. It is a kind of gift. As Rav Eliahu Dessler says: "When a man gives, he gives up a little from himself and he comes to love the one to whom he gives since he finds in the other a little of himself".

That's why the young man we were talking about in the beginning suddenly had a taste for life. The Rabbi became attached to him (as he clung to all who came to him and solicited advice from him), even though he did not know him!

This is where the strength of empathy lies: it requires no visible connection. This is not a sense of benevolence reserved for a circle of close family or friends. On the contrary, it touches all hearts like an arrow that never misses its target. Rav Moshe Ibn Ezra said: "What comes out of the heart enters the heart". That sums up what I felt when I heard this story. The story of the Rabbi and the student went straight to my heart and since then I have changed my way of acting with others...

The Three Senses that Make A Difference

1- Speak ... with Consideration! For example, I stopped asking "how are you?" mechanically. When I address someone, I make sure to pronounce his name (or her name), I take the time to ask my interlocutor about himself before formulating my question, I offer my help spontaneously, etc.

2- See ... a smiling face! When I offer a gift or even a simple coffee, I make sure to always do it with joy, with a big smile to accompany my gesture. I see the difference! The face of the person is illuminated and I feel all the good that my smile brings, beyond the "material gift" that accompanies my kindness.

3- Hear ... what the other has to say! In the age of constant rushing and new technologies, where we spend more time reading or sending messages, we, unfortunately, do not always take the time ... to listen to the other person, to see him physically, to comfort a friend warmly by taking her in our arms. As the Rebbe summed it up so well: "To be kind is more important than to be upright. Because often what people need is not a brilliant brain that speaks, but a special heart that listens... ".

With simple touches like these, we can improve a person's day, change their life, build a do not miss out!


B'hatzlacha and an excellent day to all...




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