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Empathy vs. Sympathy

An important way to build “kindness muscles” is to empathize with Others’ problems.
Imagine your friend is in a deep, dark hole. “Sympathy” means standing at the top of the hole, peering in, and saying “Oh, that’s so hard!” “Empathy” means crawling into the hole and being there with them.

Empathy vs. Sympathy

“I know exactly how you feel.”

Moses, went to the slave labor field and put his shoulder to the grindstone. He felt others’ pain as his own, and helped alleviate that burden.

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Foundation of Relationships

“What is the key to a successful, Happy Marriage?”

The foundation of any relationship, is a focus on giving: How can I best contribute to the other’s welfare? If both partners share this attitude, the relationship flows beautifully in both directions, building connection and a common bond of unity and love. Yet when the focus is on taking – “What will s/he do for me?” – the dynamic pulls in the opposite direction, away from the spouse, creating strain and tension. Kindness starts at home, that’s the reason why kindness is the foundation of a loving, enduring marriage.

Avoid the Negative

As any baby will attest, humans are innately selfish. That’s why, in describing kindness, Rabbi Hillel the Great, said: in – [Talmud – Shabbat 31a]

“What is hateful to you, do not do unto others.”

This forces us to think how it would feel to be on the receiving end of indignities we’d rather be spared. Once this first stage of not harming others is instilled in you, for example  – “Don’t throw trash any where” – it extends to a higher level of ethical living, for example; picking up trash on the street.

Some examples of “What is hateful to you…”:

  • Don’t embarrass others.
  • Don’t gossip or speak negatively about others.
  • Don’t take revenge.
  • Don’t disturb another person’s concentration or sleep.
  • Give people the benefit of the doubt.
  • Don’t keep others waiting.
  • Don’t display anger toward others.
  • Protect others from injury or loss.
  • Be honest in business dealings.

Each item takes a lifetime to master. And it’s exactly what we’re here for!

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We will do and we will hear

We will do and we will hear

The only way to fully understand a way of life is to take the risk of living it.

One of the most important phrases in the bible has often been used to characterize our faith as a whole. It consists of two Hebrew words: na’aseh venishma, literally, “We will do and we will hear” (Ex. 24:7). What does this mean and why does it matter?

There are two famous interpretations, one ancient, the other modern. The first, describe the enthusiasm and whole-heartedness with which the Israelites accepted the covenant with God at Mount Sinai. When they said to Moses, “All that the Lord has spoken we will do and we will hear”, they were saying, in effect: Whatever God asks of us, we will do – saying this before they had heard any of the commandments. The words “We will hear”, imply that they had not yet heard – not the Ten Commandments, or the other detailed laws that followed. So keen were they to signal their assent to God that they agreed to His demands before knowing what they were.

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