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By: Ellen Kamaras

As Jews, we’ve been teaching and practicing kindnessfor thousands of years. According to the Kabbalah, the world is built on kindness. The Lubavitcher Rebbe felt being kinder would hasten the coming of the Mashiah.

The mitzvahof gemilut hassadim, the extending of loving-kindness,
is separate from the mitzvahof tzedakah, helping the poor via monetary support. Gemilut hassadimaccounts for the wellbeing of all Jewish people and is about more than just money. Its driving principle is the giving of one’s self without expecting something in return and its focus is tikun olam– repairing the world.
Examples include: visiting the sick, comforting mourners, providing hospitality – any sort of giving that connectspeople.

 Although Hashem integrated kindness in the 248 positive commandments we practice, we often forget to use our kindness muscle on a daily basis. We lead fast-paced and stressful lives and often fail to remember that the simplest act of kindness can bring joy to someone. Simply smiling or saying good morning to someone can lift their spirits and make them feel cared for. Though kindness is easy, during the workweek, we go into
multi-task mode, with our eyes and ears glued to our iPhones. We often miss opportunities to do kindness, because we’re not present enough to address the needs of others.

We live this self-centered lifestyle in spite of the fact that there are a myriad of examples of kindness within the Torah. Since we began reading Sefer Beresheet in October, I’ve noted how often thecommentaries speak to the attribute of kindness. Of course, the first demonstration of it begins with Avraham, who exemplifies kindness to his unexpected visitors in Parashat Vayera. Very soon after, in Parashat Haye Sarah, we meet Rivka, who demonstratesthe ultimate kindness to Eliezer and his camels in rushing to provide water to a stranger. Later, in Sefer Shemot, we will meet Miriam who, along with her mother Yocheved, saved the lives of the Jewish male babies they had been instructed to kill.

Everything the Torah advocates is good for us. It comes as no surprise, then, that practicing kindness has physical and psychological benefits. Kind people tend to be happier and healthier. They have more positive energy to disperse, feel a greater sense of self-worth, and experience actual pleasure from performing acts of kindness.

In being kind to others, we must remember to express hakarot hatovto all those who contribute to our wellbeing. Modeling kind behavior for our children will ensure they grow to be
caring individuals.

Please don’t let your kindness muscle atrophy – use it or you
will lose it!

The 3 C’s

Practice the 3 C’sto incorporate acts of loving kindness
in your everyday lives.

COMPASSION – Perform one kindness a dayWhen you’re at the grocery store, let someone who has only one item to buy go ahead of you. Help an elderly person you know with their grocery buying and then stay to visit them awhile.

CONNECTION –Take some time to unplug from your smartphone while walking in thestreet or commuting to work. Kindly greet a neighbor, or stop to direct a person who is lost. Human connection is so vital to emotional and physical health.

COMMUNITY – Help your community flourish through kindnessIntroduce yourself to someone new. Suggest a shidduch for your friend’s lovely daughter and then watch the ripples unfurl. Consider checking on an infirm neighbor or one whose spirits are low. Each time you buy something new, donate something old. Volunteer at a hospital, senior center or gemach.

Doing something for someone who can never repay you is one of life’s
most gratifying experiences. You will get a lot more than you give – I promise.