The “Middat HaShavuah”, taken from this week’s Torah portion of Parshat Behar, instructs us to help others feel respected. The verse reads as follows:  Parshah: בהרKey Verse:  כִי-יָמוּךְ אָחִיךָ, וּמָטָה יָדוֹ עִמָּךְ–וְהֶחֱזַקְתָּ בּוֹ, גֵּר וְתוֹשָׁב וָחַי עִמָּךְ.  ויקרא כה:לה Middah: Help others feel respected   The literal translation of the verse from which our Middah is derived is: “Now when your brother sinks down and his hand falters beside you, then shall you hold him…” I love the imagery in the Torah’s choice of words—“sinks down” and “hold him.” As human beings, we all experience moments of sinking down and needing support. Helping others, especially in their low moments and doing so with respect, is the essence of being a mentsch.

Rashi’s commentary on this verse emphasises the importance of timely assistance: “Do not leave him by himself so that he comes down in the world until he finally falls altogether when it will be difficult to give him a lift, but uphold him from the very moment of the failure of his means. To what may this be compared? To an excessive load on the back of a mule. So long as it is still on the mule’s back, one person is enough to take hold of it and keep it up. As soon as it has fallen to the ground, not even five persons are able to set it on its legs.”

Rashi is teaching us that we shouldn’t wait until someone has completely fallen to offer help. Instead, we must support them as soon as we see them struggling, thus preserving their dignity and humanity. By being proactive in our assistance, we help others maintain their self-respect, embodying true compassion and empathy.

This week’s Torah portion, which highlights our obligation to help others feel respected, coincided with Mitzvah Day at The Toronto Heschel School. This year’s Mitzvah Day was a resounding success, with over 300 individual participants and numerous meaningful projects led by our student leaders, teachers, and volunteers. Mitzvah Day exemplifies how helping others can foster a sense of respect and dignity.

 For us as Jews, every day should embody the spirit of Mitzvah Day. While we strive to change the world one act of kindness at a time, there is never a wrong moment to perform a Mitzvah. A hearty Yasher Koach to everyone who participated in Mitzvah Day; continue to lift and support others when they are down.

Let’s make every day Mitzvah Day and work together to create a better, kinder, and more compassionate world.

Shabbat Shalom U’Mevorach,   

Moreh Alan