Potential – Parshat Ekev
Some people notice everything that goes on around them. Others have a tendency to be so wrapped up in what's going on, they notice less about what is going on. I am somewhere in the middle though with a tendency to notice more than less.
So, when I see the following idea expressed by the Netziv, I wonder how come I never saw it before. The Torah has three mitzvot that include loving - loving God, loving your friend/neighbor and loving the stranger. In the first two instances, the Torah simply states the mitzva. However, by loving the stranger which appears in our parsha, the Torah adds another statement. "love the stranger, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt." Being that the Torah is usually very economical with its words, there must be a reason to have this addition with this specific mitzva. I had always thought that it was a way of being able to empathize. The Netziv, however, offers a much deeper and caring explanation. Not only do we know what it was like to slaves but we also know that from slaves we developed into an independent people, a nation with a destiny. S when you look at the stranger, do not look at him and see only a stranger. See what this stranger can still become.
The message seems to be simple and clear, though not always easy to adhere to. For us to be able to see the person not as he is but as he could become we raise him up. This was a tenet of Goethe, oft-quoted by Doctor Viktor Frankl in exhorting therapists to view the sometimes hidden potential in Man.
Seeing potential is the first step. Giving the other person the message that we can see how good they can become is the next.
Have A Great Shabbat!