In Parshat Ekev Moshe reiterates G-d’s assurances and perils based on His people doing what’s required and expected of them. Moshe declares, “G-d, your G-d is the G-d of gods and Lord of lords, the great mighty and awesome G-d…”, and in the next passuk (verse) asserts, “He executes judgment of the orphan and widow, loves the stranger, to give him bread and clothing” (10:17-18). Rabbi Jonathan Sacks wonders why such a grand statement is followed by a very specific statement in seemingly striking contrast.
Rabbi Sacks explains that G-d’s greatness is followed by His humility to teach us that these two traits must go hand in hand. You can’t be great without being humble, without first considering those less fortunate or those who may otherwise be forgotten.
With a careful reading of the pessukim (verses), one can take this lesson a step further: To love, feed, and clothe the stranger, one must not simply be aware of their predicament but understand their need, appreciate their situation and empathize with their plight. Greatness requires an appreciation for the circumstances of strangers among us and, even more, empathy for the non-strangers in our lives.