It’s the seventh day of Elul and Labor Day, our American celebration of labor and labor unions, that have won us so many important benefits. I was present this morning at a shiva minyan, where two of the Torah verses reiterates the verse from the Holiness Code about workers (Lev. 19:13).
Deut 24:14-15: You shall not abuse a needy and destitute laborer, whether your brother or a stranger in your land and your gates. You must pay him his wages on the same day, before the sun sets, for he is needy and urgently depends on it; else he will cry to the Holy One against you and you will incur guilt.
The , service leader, Sara Sarasohn, gave a quick drash on these verse—that this was about being able to meet people where they are. While an employer might consider the daily wage of one of their workers as paltry, to the worker it might be all that keeps the family from going to bed hungry or meeting their rent or paying the doctor bills. So Sara’s connection—that we be able to meet people where they are—seems completely on target. Can we find the empathy, the understanding, the compassion and the caring to recognize that our reality, or our privilege isn’t shared by the people we come in contact with? Can we recognize and validate their needs to be as valid as our own?
It might be giving a fair tip to the wait staff who serves you. It might be acknowledging the humanity of the pan handler to whom you are giving some money to. It might be getting down on your knees to meet a child face-to-face, or speaking to the person in the wheelchair rather than exclusively to the person pushing it. Or it might be challenging the smart teen to really think about the consequences of their actions or engaging in a serious, respectful discussion about Israel.
But it is surely about meeting the person where they are, rather than where you are. Or where I am.