The Essence of True Kindness

Yael Eckstein  |  April 8, 2021

Women of the Dadon family who were terror victims.

“‘These are the birds you are to regard as unclean and not eat because they are unclean: the eagle, the vulture, the black vulture …’”—Leviticus 11:13

Each week in synagogue, Jews read through the Torah from Genesis to Deuteronomy. The Torah portion for this week is Shemini, which means “eighth,” from Leviticus 9:1–11:47.

Every Shabbat, my husband and I love to host people at our Sabbath meal. Most of our guests are invited in advance, but often, my husband will bring a stranger from synagogue who would otherwise be alone.

Usually, we enjoy all of our guests – those we expected and those that join last minute. But there was one man who came to our home and was quite unpleasant. He wasn’t dangerous, but his clothing was dirty; he clearly hadn’t showered, and he said some inappropriate things at the table. I felt uptight during the meal and was relieved when he left.

When my husband brought him back a second time, I quietly took him aside in the kitchen and asked why he had brought this unpleasant man again. He said, “Yael, we don’t invite guests because of what they can do for us. We invite them because of what we can do for them.” My husband’s gentle reminder about the true essence of kindness allowed me to take the focus off myself and put it on the person in need. I was able to relax and even enjoy the company.

The Essence of True Kindness

In this week’s Torah reading, we learn the laws regarding kosher and non-kosher food. When it comes to the section on birds, we are prohibited from eating birds like eagles, vultures, and ravens. We are taught that because these are birds of prey and cruel, eating them would be spiritually harmful to our souls.

However, another bird mentioned – the chassidah bird – is also considered non-kosher, but this time we are confused. Chassidah comes from the word chessed, which means “kindness.” However, while the chassidah bird is indeed kind, it is only kind to those that the bird loved. The chassidah bird stops being kind when it comes to those outside her circle – and that is not kosher!

The lesson for us is that the essence of true kindness is when we are considerate to all kinds of people – those we like and those we don’t enjoy, those we know and those we have never met. God loves and provides love, kindness, and charity for all His creatures and children, and we must do the same.

Your Turn:

Think about the people in your life right now. What can you do to extend kindness to that person – even if it is someone you don’t particularly like? Share your thoughts below!