Monday, 31 March 2008

Acts of Goodness and Kindness

The Lubavitcher Rebbe, Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneerson, stressed throughout his life the importance of increasing in acts of goodness and kindness. At the core of life is the action of giving to another. However, just when one would assume that one had given enough and had told the Rebbe of his most generous donations, the Rebbe, without hesitating would encourage more. “One who has one hundred wants two hundred[1],” the Rebbe would quote the Torah. If this applies in terms of one’s material gains for one’s own self – surely it would apply equally – and perhaps even more so to one’s efforts in giving to others?!

Giving can be done in so many ways. It is not only a monetary thing. The Rambam lists different obligations, formats and structures of giving[2]. On the highest level one gives somebody a job – so that he can take care of himself – without the need to constantly embarrass himself asking for charity from others[3]. Within this level is also giving a loan to another. Here one allows another to experiment and grow in his own life having the material needs to attain his goals on his own.

Never, does the giver have to humiliate the receiver by imposing his own purpose of the material help he is giving, nor should he. Instead, the money is given to allow the receiver to make something of himself, grow in his very own way, and contribute to the world his own unique gifts!

There are many ways to give, says the Rambam – even if it be unwillingly – although this be the lowest level.

Unfortunately we are not all granted the blessings of “exaggerated” wealth. While some have material wealth, there are others blessed with other ways of bestowing their kindness. Perhaps it’s through devoting an hour a week to visit a sick person in hospital. It could be sponsoring a project of another, or offering one’s own professional service at no cost (thereby not incurring any loss to oneself.) Donating a book to a new Yeshiva, even though it may not seem like much, can make a huge difference in the life of a student. Giving to a newly married couple an item much needed in the start of a home, can be a gift for life!

Due to it’s sensitivity, one strives to fulfill this Mitzvah without embarrassing another[4]. Yet, how many of us know that when we’ve needed that extra help (whether material or spiritual), we have been met with the “anger” of the giver. “Get a job!” they might say – while handing over the money. While fulfilling the Mitzvah of charity, they lose out on the opportunity of doing it with a happy countenance! How much more they could stand to gain for themselves and the world, were they only to give with a smile?!

The Torah says that it is G-d who gives to everyone[5]. Nobody is given something because he deserves it – as such. Rather, G-d has desired that the world exist in kindness[6]. There is only one way of achieving this goal. Some will have to have, and others will have to lack. G-d therefore gives more to some and less to others so that the world will exist on kindness. Charity can only be given when another is in need. It can only be given between two people. Were G-d to grant each person his material desires without the intervention of any person, the world would lack the most important part of it – kindness between people.

More than the giver gives to the recipient, the recipient gives to the giver! Such a person gives the giver the greatest opportunity in life – to give, to become G-dlike and create something new in the world. Through his receiving, he allows the giver to build the world, to bring G-dliness into it, by allowing him to imitate G-d Himself. It is in fact he – the receiver, who brings into existence the concept of giving, which the giver has now merited to do.

The giver becomes a partner with the receiver. He is no greater because of his giving. The receiver becomes a partner with the giver, he is no less.

This is kindness. This is giving. This is the way of the Jewish people[7], and we hope and pray that all will learn from them so that the entire world will be filled with a oneness and an awakening to perceive G-dliness. The one who has, does not become arrogant, and the one who lacks has no shame. Each gives to the other, and the symphony of the music is filled with melody. One waits patiently as the other plays his tune at his time, and then the roles become reversed, and the other now has a chance to play his instrument. For one, it may be a solo piano piece lasting minutes, and for the other just a quick movement as his bow moves swiftly across his violin strings. Yet together they contribute – each giving when they can, neither one more jealous of the other.

The Rebbe was also very much involved in seeing how technology manifested itself in the world – and using it to further this message of goodness and kindness that he had[8]. Wherever he could, he would take the latest developments, see its greatness, its G-dliness, and use it to bring more happiness in the world - more goodness and more kindness.

Can we use technology to speed up these acts of goodness and kindness? Already amazing Torah sites have arisen – filled with words of Torah. Helping Jews around the world learn more and more. The power of an email can bring goodness to another in a moment. Money can be sent from one part of the world to another – in seconds! And of course, an encouraging word can by Divine Providence reach the right person at just the right time.

Are we doing enough though? There is always more to do! We are still in exile awaiting the final redemption. What can we do to speed things up? Can we use technology to hasten the redemption? Can technology bring peace into the world?

While one can always give in person, today one can even join a group on the Internet that has formed for the sole purpose of doing good. It’s name – Goodness and Kindness. It’s a place where there is no need to feel greater – or lesser, arrogant or shameful. In fact it may well be that the partners – giver and receiver, never even actually meet! We all have what to give. Let this remind us, that there are still many in need. Today, at the click of a button we can literally bless another with exactly what they need, no matter how small or large. And all of this, without the slightest trace of embarrassment to the recipient.

Give it a try sometime, click right here:

It’s there, waiting to be explored. You can join and take part in bringing those who have in abundance with those who might be in need.

Join today - we all have something to give. Do another act of goodness and kindness. Charity hastens the redemption.[9] May we all encourage each other in all our “Giving” projects, create a true unity amongst the Jewish people, give delight to the Creator of the world, and indeed hasten that final moment, where we enter into a world, with unity and love in place of jealousy and strife. A world filled with only goodness and kindness.

[1] Kohelet Raba 1:34
[2] Rambam Hilchos Matanos L’Aniyim (Gifts to the Poor) Chapters 8-10
[3] See as above Chapter 10, Halachos 7-14 (8 Levels of Charity)
[4] Rambam Chapter 10:13 (7th level of charity – to give with a smiling face.)
[5] See Tehillim 145:16 “You open your hand and satisfy the will of every living creature.”; Talmud: Beitzah 15b
[6] Tehillim 89:3 “For I have said, the world is built upon kindness”
[7] Talmud Bavli: Yevamos 79a “This nation has three characteristic traits. They are merciful, modest (shy) and doers of kindness.”
[8] See Proverbs 3:6 “In all your ways know Him”
[9] Talmud Baba Basra 10a

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