Empathy in the Torah

“I have argued, in Not in God’s Name, that empathy is structured into the way the Torah tells certain stories – about Hagar and Ishmael when they are sent away into the desert, about Esau when he enters his father’s presence to receive his blessing only to find that Jacob has taken it, and about Leah’s feelings when she realises that Jacob loves Rachel more. These stories force us into recognising the humanity of the other, the seemingly unloved, unchosen, rejected. Indeed, it may be that this is why the Torah tells us these stories in the first place. The Torah is essentially a book of law. Why then contain narrative at all? Because law without empathy equals justice without compassion.”

Judaism’s Life-Changing Ideas, p. 94