Shituf Betsa’ar

Empathy

So long as we love we serve; So long as we are loved by others, I would almost say that we are indispensable; And no one is useless while they have a friend. – Robert Louis Stevenson

Jews, in response to the requirement of Shituf Betsa’ar are encouraged to place themselves in the interior world of another person. To experience the world as that person or group experiences it.

It may be easier to be aware of and respond to the feelings of people who resemble ourselves closely – with whom we share characteristics such as age, ethnicity, gender, social class and sexuality. When it comes to people who are different, empathy may becomes much harder. How difficult it is to enter and respect the interior world of our children! Shituf Betsa’ar obliges Jews to always remember that other person – sometimes strange and threatening – but above all a person, whose individuality is to be as much prized as our own.

Shituf Betsa’ar requires us to remember and respect difference, and to be aware of the additional suffering we may cause by our carelessness, our dismissive attitudes, and our fear and hatred. It requires us to be sensitive and to treat people with dignity, love and respect.