The Reward for Kindness

Yael Eckstein  |  December 13, 2020

Blessed are those who have regard for the weak;
     the LORD delivers them in times of trouble. — Psalm 41:1

In honor of my father, Rabbi Yechiel Eckstein, and his lifework helping Christians understand the Jewish roots of their faith, I offer you one of his devotional teachings from the beloved Psalms.

A story is told about a young man who was walking in the woods one hot summer day. This was during the late 1800s, so when he was overcome by fatigue, hunger, and thirst, help wasn’t so easy to find. The young man decided to knock on the first door that he saw.

When he found a home, he resolved to ask for water, nothing more. A young girl opened the door but when the young man asked for water, she decided that he looked hungry and brought a large glass of milk instead. That milk gave the young man the energy he needed and bolstered his spirits so that he could make it home.

Years later, that little girl grew up and became very sick. She was sent to the city so that she could be treated by one of the nation’s top doctors. As she underwent surgery, Dr. Howard Kelly recognized the patient who he was treating — it was that little girl who had been kind to him that hot summer day.

After the surgery, Dr. Kelly asked that all medical bills for the patient be sent to him for approval. As he looked them over, he scrawled something in black ink. When the woman recovered and was ready to leave the hospital, she was nervous to open the final bill. When she did, she was surprised to find this note from the doctor: “Paid in full with one glass of cold milk.” Unknowingly, she had been rewarded for the kindness she had extended so many years ago.

Blessed are Those Who Care

In the opening line of Psalm 41, David wrote: “Blessed are those who have regard for the weak; the LORD delivers them in times of trouble.” Those who are kind to others in their time of need will find that they will be rewarded for their kindness when they themselves are in need.

In the Talmud, the Jewish sages tell a similar story about a man known as Benjamin the Righteous who single-handedly supported a widow and her seven sons during years of famine. Sometime later, he became very ill and was on the brink of death when angels pleaded before God: “Is it not written that he who saves a life, saves an entire world? Is it right that a man who saved the lives of a widow and her seven sons die so young?” Immediately Benjamin’s death sentence was torn to pieces and 22 years were added to his life.

In Hebrew, the word “to give,” natan, is a palindrome. It reads the same way backward and forward in order to teach us that when we give, we also get back. May we always be motivated to give generously, live compassionately, and extend kindness. Indeed, we will be rewarded for our kindness, and can save many lives with our charity.

Your Turn:

Celebrate this season of miracles for both Christians and Jews with a complimentary copy of our devotional booklet on Angels: God’s Mysterious Messengers. Discover the many lessons we can learn about these supernatural beings and the role angels play in our lives today.

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