When the world was young and cable-less, people were not troubled overmuch by distressing news from far reaches. It was just an item of interest – almost like the weather. Even today though, with an overload of images of misery, violence, poverty and war, we have often become uncaring spectators. We watch more out of curiosity than any deep sense of helping the plight of the needy.
However, for many volunteers, there has been that intersection of seeing the plight of a downtrodden, suffering people that moves them to action. I recall an interview years ago with a photojournalist covering a famine in Africa. His goal in filming the starving miserable children was to generate awareness and action. He succeeded. Donations and volunteers poured in from all over the world.
Rabbi Hizkiyahu ben Manoach (Hizkuni) claims that seeing the distress of another is a prerequisite for successful action. Knowing or hearing about the distress is apparently not as powerful.
After Pharaoh cries for mercy from the plague of the hailstones, Moses announces that he will go out of the city in order to stop the hail. Many commentators think it strange – why doesn’t Moses just stop the hail where he’s standing?
Hizkuni explains that the devastation of the hailstones was mostly on the crops, in the field, outside the city. Moses needed to see the damage and destruction firsthand in order to pray for relief. He wouldn’t be as effective praying from afar.
May we be willing (and able, when appropriate) to get up close and personal when we need to relieve the distress of others. Apparently, it’s the best way.
To Haiti and all those affected by this week’s natural disaster. For some reason, God seems to be giving this country a particularly hard time over the years.
And to the staff and crew of El Al’s Sao Paulo flight. I was pleasantly surprised – even amazed, by the gracious service. May this spread to all their routes.