All posts by Rabbi Craig Lewis

Rabbi Craig Lewis officiates at the historic Mizpah Reform Jewish Congregation in Chattanooga, Tennessee. Mizpah was founded in 1866 by a small group of Western European and German Jewish businessmen.

Communicating with Empathy – by Rabbi Craig Lewis

Since February includes my wedding anniversary and a day on which everyone celebrates love (February 14), I wish to share these thoughts on relationships from a recent sermon on Parashat Va-eira. In the Torah, God sends Moses to talk to Pharaoh and tells him, “I will put you in the role of God before Pharaoh and your brother Aaron shall be a prophet. You speak the words I command to you, and Aaron will speak them to Pharaoh” (Exodus 7:1-2).

Rashi, a medieval rabbi and author of a comprehensive commentary on the Talmud, understands why Aaron’s role is not redundant. Aaron makes the words eloquent for Pharaoh to hear and understand. Thus, we learn the role of the prophet: taking complex ideas, hard lessons, and putting them into plain language. Even the greatest of wisdom is worthless if it cannot be applied. Language is only the beginning, and must be coupled with empathy, with attention to non-verbal cues, and with proper tone. We know Moses claims to be slow of speech, especially compared to his brother. His speech is fine, but Aaron knows the real difference between speech and communication.
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