Seeking KindnessOctober 14, 2013 - 5:00 am
“The LORD appeared to Abraham near the great trees of Mamre while he was sitting at the entrance to his tent in the heat of the day.”—Genesis 18:1
The Torah portion for this week, Vayeira, which means “and he appeared” is from Genesis 18:1—22:24, and the Haftorah is from 2 Kings 4:1–37.
“Three things in human life are important: the first is to be kind; the second is to be kind; and the third is to be kind.” So said Henry James, an American author in the early 20th century.
Abraham would have agreed. The Sages teach that Abraham was the original model for kindness. That’s why three days after his circumcision Abraham was sitting at the opening of his tent looking for visitors on whom he could bestow kindness. The third day after any operation is usually the most painful, and so God made the day unusually hot so that no one would bother Abraham. However, for Abraham, the pain of not being able to perform an act of kindness on any given day was greater than the pain of circumcision.
Most people think that being a kind person means behaving nicely to those we encounter during our day. We may even give charity and volunteer once in a while. However, Abraham set the bar much higher than that and took kindness to a whole new level. He actively sought out ways to be kind. He didn’t wait for an opportunity to come his way; Abraham looked for opportunities like they were as precious as gold. For Abraham, a day without an act of kindness was a day not worth living.
Let’s try to understand this for a moment. Let’s say someone told you that for every act of kindness, $10,000 would be deposited into your bank account. Would you still be sitting in your chair? Probably not! You would find someone in your house or office and ask, “Can I get you something to drink?” If someone dropped their pen, you’d be on the ground in seconds picking it up. If no other opportunities were available, you’d get in your car and drive to the nearest store where you could help someone with their groceries or help an old woman cross the street. There are opportunities for kindness everywhere and you would do whatever you could to perform them, right?
That’s how Abraham perceived kindness, except he wasn’t getting a dollar reward – the reward was knowing that he helped someone out, fulfilled God’s will, and brought godliness into the world. That was worth more than gold to Abraham. Such a good feeling and the recognition of God’s love were far more rewarding.
Studies have shown that a great way to feel happier is to make someone else happy. So this week, let’s raise the bar and actively look for ways to extend kindness to others as Abraham did. You’ll be amazed by how much good you can do and how good you will feel.