The Power of KindnessNovember 7, 2013 - 5:00 am
“When morning came, there was Leah! So Jacob said to Laban, ‘What is this you have done to me? I served you for Rachel, didn’t I? Why have you deceived me?’”—Genesis 29:25
The Torah portion for this week, Vayeitzei, which means “and he left,” is from Genesis 28:10–32:3, and the Haftorah is from Hosea 11:7–12:14.
Take a moment to answer this question: Who has been the greatest influence in your life?
For many, if not most people, the answer will not be a name that you and I recognize. It won’t be a famous singer or an Olympic gold medalist. For many of us, the name that will come to mind is the name of a parent, grandparent, teacher, or friend — not because of any monumental accomplishments, but because they demonstrated kindness and compassion to us throughout their lives and ours.
Contrary to what most people think, those who influence the world the most are not the people standing in the limelight; it’s the ones standing in the background, far from public view. It’s the kind and good-hearted people behind the scenes who make a difference in the world.
Jewish tradition teaches that when the children of Israel were sent into exile and the Holy Temple destroyed, God wanted to make the exile permanent. However, each of the forefathers and foremothers came before God in heaven to beg for mercy so that God would eventually bring His children home. Each holy soul presented God with his or her greatest deed: Abraham brought monotheism into the world; Isaac offered himself as a sacrifice; Moses brought the Israelites out of Egypt; and so on. God, however, was not moved by any of their pleas.
Finally, the matriarch Rachel came before God and offered her greatest deed: When she was supposed to marry Jacob, she had compassion on her sister Leah and told her the secret sign that Rachel had made with Jacob so that Leah would not be embarrassed when Laban sent her as the bride instead of Rachel. Immediately, God’s compassion was stirred and He promised Rachel that her children would be spared.
When Rachel was supposed to marry Jacob, they both suspected that Laban might try to trick Jacob into marrying Leah instead. So they came up with secret signs to exchange under the wedding canopy which would ensure that the veiled bride was indeed Rachel. But when the wedding day arrived, Rachel couldn’t bear to see her sister publicly humiliated. She taught Leah the signs and her dignity was spared. This single act of kindness held the power to change the world.
Friends, never underestimate the power of kindness. We will never know the value of a kind word, a generous gift, or a single act motivated by compassion. Kindness and compassion shape and mold the world for the better. As Mark Twain once said, “To the world you may be just one person . . . but to one person you might just be the world.”