Do not let kindness and truth leave you;
Bind them around your neck,
Write them on the tablet of your heart. — Proverbs 3:3 NSAB
The year 2018 is important for Israel and the Jewish people as we celebrate the modern State of Israel’s 70th Birthday. You can be part of this momentous milestone with Rabbi Eckstein’s 70 devotions offered now through April 19, Israel’s Independence Day. These devotions are tied to our Keys to Israel – six fundamental principles underlying God’s covenantal relationship with His chosen people and His Holy Land using the acrostic I.S.R.A.E.L.
This devotion is part of ten devotions focusing on the letter “L” for Love your neighbor — one of the greatest commandments that God gave to both Christians and Jews.
There is a story about a Jewish man who wrote a letter to his rabbi because he was unhappy and needed guidance in getting his life on track. The letter read: “I need your help. I wake up every day sad and anxious. I have difficulty concentrating. I find it hard to pray. I feel that life has lost its joy and meaning. I need help.” The rabbi delivered his reply without writing a single word. Instead the rabbi took a red pen and circled the first word of every sentence: “I.”
The message was that the solution to the person’s problem could be found in his focus exclusively on himself. The rabbi was trying to gently, yet firmly, demonstrate that the secret to a happy and fulfilling life is to take the focus off of ourselves and place it instead on others. The happiest people in the world are the ones who make other people happy.
In Proverbs we read this powerful message: “Do not let kindness and truth leave you; Bind them around your neck, Write them on the tablet of your heart.” King Solomon recognized the importance of kindness, too. By telling us to bind it to our necks and inscribe it on our hearts, he was teaching us that we ought to make kindness – as well as truth – a major part of who we are both inside and out.
Most people go through life asking themselves, “What is in it for me?” However, this ultimately leads to a shallow existence and a feeling of emptiness. Life lived “all about me” can be a very lonely experience. Instead of asking “What about me?” we should start asking, “What about we?” In other words, how can I help others? How can I brighten someone else’s day? How can I make the world better for everyone?
In Hebrew, the word for giving, natan, is a palindrome, meaning it can be read the same way forward or backward. According to Jewish tradition, this teaches us that no matter what end of giving you are on, everyone benefits. But don’t just take my word for it. Go out and try it!
The Talmud teaches that kindness is even better than charity because it can be done for both poor and rich, and with money or without any. Everyone can perform acts of kindness today. Speak some encouraging words to someone who is down. Cook a hot meal for someone alone or hungry. Help someone run an errand, or offer your seat on the crowded bus to another person. Even something as simple as asking, “What can I do for YOU today” can enrich your life as well as many others.
Make kindness a priority today!
Join the celebration and get the entire Keys to I.S.R.A.E.L. curriculum for free — for you, your small group, or even your church.
With prayers for shalom, peace,
Rabbi Yechiel Eckstein
Founder and President