As we begin reading the Book of Exodus on this Shabbat, we learn of Moses being called by God to go to Pharoah and demand “let my people go.” And we might wonder: Why of all the people in the world was Moses the one chosen by God to lead the Israelites to freedom?
I think there are two answers. The first concerns Moses as a young man growing up in the royal palace as a prince of Egypt. The Torah tells us that as he looked out at the suffering slaves, he could feel that they were his brothers. Moses identified with the abused slaves even as he was wealthy and powerful as a prince. So do we learn that Moses was a man with great empathy in his capacity to feel the pain of others.
And the second answer: When Moses was a shepherd caring for his flock, a little sheep ran away, and Moses followed it until it came to a pool of water. As he watched the little sheep drink from the water, Moses thought to himself: “Poor little sheep. It is so hot outside and the little sheep was thirsty.”
According to the legend, Moses bent down and picked up the little sheep and carried it back to the flock on his shoulders. And God thought: “That if this man Moses could feel so much caring and compassion for a little sheep, then how much more will he be able to feel for my children who are slaves, and who cry out because of the pain of their burden?”
Yes, we believe that Moses was chosen because he had a feeling heart; a heart from which he could feel the pain and the needs of others.
And that is the great challenge for all on us. It’s so true that as we lookout at our world, every day brings so many opportunities to bring a little bit of kindness and goodness into our world. No, none of us can change the entire world. None of us alone can solve any of the great problems of our world. Hunger, poverty, hatred, loneliness. But every one of us does have something that we can give that can make this a kinder and better world, at least for some people, and that is no small achievement.
Yes, it’s true that “no act of kindness, no matter how small, is ever wasted.” And so for each of us, may we live with the knowing that wherever there is a human need, there is an opportunity for kindness and to make a difference. And the reward for us? As our sages declared: “The reward for performing a Mitzvah is in the doing.”