The Exodus Story Teaches Us CompassionApril 21, 2022 - 12:00 am
Supply them liberally from your flock, your threshing floor and your winepress. Give to them as the LORD your God has blessed you.Remember that you were slaves in Egypt and the LORD your God redeemed you. That is why I give you this command today. — Deuteronomy 15:14-15
This week, my family and I, along with Jews around the world, are celebrating the most important event in Jewish history — the Exodus and redemption of the children of Israel from bondage in Egypt. These devotions were prepared for you in advance to help you discover the many lessons in faith Passover has for you.
“We ourselves were slaves to Pharaoh in Egypt.” These are the opening words of the storytelling portion of the Haggadah, the millennia-old text that we read at the Passover seder. As we recount the Exodus story, we read, “In every generation, every person must see himself as though he himself left Egypt.”
Some Jewish communities even have the custom of dressing up as slaves and acting out the Exodus. I remember sitting at the seder as a young girl and thinking, “Really? I was a slave? I left Egypt?” It was only as I got a bit older that I began to appreciate the spiritual power of identification with the entirety of Jewish history.
This identification with the Exodus is not merely ritual playacting. It has a very powerful impact on our lives. A 2010 study by Indiana University economics professor Mark Ottoni-Wilhelm showed that Jews give proportionally more charity than other ethnic groups in America.
His research discovered that “Jewish appeals often connect the needs of people who are poor to the Jewish history of enslavement in Egypt.” More than 3,000 years after our deliverance from Egypt, identification with slavery and the Exodus teaches compassion for those who are needy.
The Exodus Story Teaches Us Compassion
The truth is that the Bible teaches this lesson over and over. One of the main purposes of biblical slavery and the Exodus story is to teach us to be compassionate. Just as God heard our cries when we were suffering and needy (Exodus 3:7), we must hear the cries of others.
One example is found in Deuteronomy 15, where the laws of treatment of indentured servants is mentioned. An indentured servant was someone who had fallen on such hard times that he was forced to sell himself into servitude to pay off his debts. The Bible teaches that when the servant completes his or her period of servitude, they are to be treated generously.
The Israelites were commanded to “Supply them liberally from your flock, your threshing floor and your winepress.” Moses ended his instructions with this reminder to God’s children: “Remember that you were slaves in Egypt and the Lord your God redeemed you.”
Just as God showed compassion for Israel when they were suffering and oppressed, the Exodus story and Passover teach all of us to show compassion for others who are in difficult situations.
Your turn: Needy people are crying out to us as we cried out to God in Egypt. Help care for the needy today.