Do not let kindness and truth leave you; Bind them around your neck, Write them on the tablet of your heart. — Proverbs 3:3 NASB
A story is told 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 need to start asking, “What about we?” In other words, how can I help us out? 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 – it can be read the same way forward or backward. 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!
With prayers for shalom, peace,
Rabbi Yechiel Eckstein
Founder and President