Because you carefully follow all these laws I command you today—to love the LORD your God and to walk always in obedience to him—then you are to set aside three more cities. — Deuteronomy 19:9
The Torah portion for this week is Shoftim, which means “judges,” from Deuteronomy 16:18–21:9, and the Haftorah is from Isaiah 51:12–52:12.
Several years ago, the news carried a story about an 84-year-old woman from British Columbia who waved at students on their way to school every day. The story went viral.
Tinney Davidson had been enthusiastically waving to the children passing her home on their way to and from school for years. One year, students at Highland Secondary chose to honor Tinney on Valentine’s Day with an assembly in her honor. Students were captured on the news saying things like, “You can always count on her for that warm smile on a dreary day,” and “It makes everyone’s day a little bit brighter.”
What is so amazing about this story is how such a small act of kindness can have such an enormous effect. Just a wave and a smile every day can do so much to lift the spirits of others and have untold repercussions on their lives.
In this week’s Torah portion, we come across the following phrase: “to walk always in obedience to him.” I’d like to explore the Jewish understanding of this phrase for a moment because it provides a universal message for us all.
Literally translated from Hebrew, the phrase reads: “To walk in His ways all of your days.” The Jewish sages ask two questions. The first: What does it mean to “walk in His ways”? They explain that this means emulating God by performing acts of kindness just as God does.
However, the sages also take note of the words “all of your days” and ask what they teach us. They explain this phrase teaches us that acts of kindness are not something we do from time to time; they are something that needs to be done every day.
Sometimes we might do a huge favor for someone and think that we have done our good deed for the week. Or if we make a large donation to a charity, then that takes care of our “good work” for the year. However, this verse tells us that we need to do something kind every day regardless of what we have done the day before.
Acts of kindness are for the soul as food is for the body. No matter how much we might have eaten yesterday, we still need sustenance today. In the same way, we need to do something kind every day to keep our soul in top form. It doesn’t need to be something difficult, expensive, or time-consuming. Take a lesson from Tinney. A wave, a smile, some encouraging words can go a long way. Hold a door open for someone, call a friend in need, or give someone a ride. These small acts of kindness have a ripple effect that can make all the difference in the world.
With prayers for shalom, peace,
Rabbi Yechiel Eckstein
Founder and President