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    Parshat Bo tells the story
    of Yetziat Mitzrayim, the
    Exodus from Egypt.
    Throughout the Torah,
    the importance of this
    event, and of
    remembering this event, is emphasized. And
    many mitzvot were commanded
    specifically to ensure that we never forget
    that we were downtrodden slaves in Egypt
    until Hashem miraculously brought us to
    freedom. One reason why the story of
    Yetziat Mitzrayim is so critically important,
    and so foundational to the Jewish
    experience, is because it teaches us about
    the ability to overcome challenges. Our
    ancestors were lowly slaves, subjected to
    unimaginable misery and persecution, and
    then emerged as a proud nation, standing at
    Mount Sinai and hearing Hashem speak to
    them. The story of Yetziat Mitzrayim is
    thus the story of the Jewish People
    throughout history – the story of resilience
    in the face of hardship, the story of triumph
    over adversity, the story of never losing
    hope or faith no matter how difficult the
    situation is. And this is the story that we
    each must write for ourselves, as

    well. Yetziat Mitzrayim teaches us that we
    can overcome any personal challenges that
    we face by placing our faith in Hashem,
    that no struggle is too difficult, that we can
    and must be strong even in hard times. But
    there is also another reason why the Torah
    places great emphasis on remembering our
    ancestors’ experiences in Egypt. The Torah
    on several occasions commands us to look
    out for the poor and the downtrodden, and
    it makes the point that we experienced
    hardship and suffering in Egypt. We
    ourselves endured the pain and degradation
    of slavery – and so we need to empathize
    with, and care for, those who are hurting,
    those who are struggling, those who are
    alone, and those who are vulnerable and
    afraid. We were there, we know what it’s
    like, and so we have the responsibility to
    help them. We place a great deal of
    emphasis on the first message of Yetziat
    Mitzrayim – on fighting, on struggling to
    succeed and triumph in the face of
    adversity, on trusting our ability to
    overcome any challenge. Specifically,
    because of this, we aren’t always
    sufficiently attuned to the plight of those
    who struggle. We hear and tell ourselves so

    often that we can overcome
    anything, and so we might be
    led to apply this to other people
    enduring hardship. We might
    look at people who are struggling
    and think, “They can get over it.
    They’re strong. With emunah,
    anything is possible – so they
    can handle this and recover.”
    This attitude overlooks the
    second message of the story of
    Egypt – empathizing with
    people’s pain, and doing what
    we can to care for them. We
    have among us many victims, of
    many different kinds. There are victims of
    various forms of abuse. There are victims
    of crime. There are victims of
    poverty. There are victims of neglect. There
    are victims of bullying. There are victims
    of abandonment. And they need to see that
    we care, that they’re not invisible, that we
    want to embrace them and help them. Of
    course, all Am Yisrael are victims; we have
    been victimized for millennia. And we’ve
    grown stronger through our extraordinary
    power of resilience and our faith. But this
    does not allow us to belittle the pain and

    the suffering of our brothers and sisters
    who are in pain. They don’t need to be told
    to hear classes or read books about emunah,
    or to be told that they are strong enough to
    handle anything. They need our empathy,
    our unconditional support, and the
    assurance that we are with them and ready
    to help them. For ourselves, we need to
    reinforce our faith in Hashem and in our
    strength to persevere. But for others, we
    need to show empathy and concern, and
    extend ourselves as much as we can to
    alleviate the pain and suffering of our
    fellow Jew in distress.