You Don’t Need to be Betazoid to be an Empath – Parshat Kedoshim
In the Star Trek:TNG series, one of the characters was a Betazoid (a resident of the planet Betazed) whose empathic qualities were so finely attuned that she was chosen as the ship's Counselor. She was able to understand people and their concerns, worries and difficulties and therefore, was able to help them accordingly. Fortunately, Betazoids do not have a monopoly on empathy.
In fact, in this week's parsha, Parshat Kedoshim, there is a mitzvah to show empathy. In the famous sentence "love thy neighbor as thyself,"2 the words "as thyself" actually seem unnecessary. It could just have said, "love thy neighbor." That would have been enough. So, the Sforno, an early 16th century Italian sage, explains that the words imply an additional level of love. "Love for your neighbor that which you would love for yourself if you were in his place." Put yourself in his shoes. Be empathic. Imagine what he is going through. And then act
What a powerful yet fascinating mitzvah. In order to command it, the Torah assumes we can fulfill it. The Torah will not command something that people cannot perform. We can all be empaths! We all have the capacity to understand others. Otherwise we could not be expected to fulfill the commandment. We can all do it.
How often do we take the time to actually try this? How often do we not try because we don’t believe in our own ability to empathize? Yet the Torah believes in us. God believes in us. We all can do this.
It may be a new skill that we never tapped into – and it can be improved. Learn to recognize it and use it well. You will be fascinated by the results. Your spouse will appreciate it, your friends will appreciate it and you will appreciate it.
Play around with it – it will be a new skill. And as we are here to be helpful to others3 (among other things), it is a good tool to have.
And remember, even Earthlings can be empaths
Have A Great Shabbat!