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Life is what happens while you are busy making plans

by Rabbi Matt July 22, 2012

Life is what happens while you are busy making plans!  We often have the best of intentions, however, life gets in the way of acting on them.  This summer, try NOT to let life get in the way.  Here are TWO significant opportunities.


ONE.  In March, we began “3 Chapters A Day” to encourage, as many people as possible, to read the entire TaNaKh in one year.  On Sunday, June 3, we concluded the Five Books of Moses with a Siyum, a “gathering in honor of the completion of a mitzvah.”  We read a little, noshed a little and gave mazel tovs to each other for finishing the first section of the mitzvah of “talmud torah,” Torah study.



But now, I am behind in reading Nevi’im, the book of Prophets.  I should be in First Samuel, though I have barely begun Joshua.  Thankfully, summer has arrived with fresh hopes to sit in the shade and catch up on my Torah studies.  To engage in regular Jewish study will give you soulful opportunities “to attain a heart of wisdom” (Psalm 90).  If you have not yet started, jump right in with today’s reading.  Copies of the “3 Chapters A Day” calendar are in the pamphlet tower in the temple foyer.  A calendar, and book summaries, are available on our website under the Adult Education tab.  Email, or call me, with questions and comments.



TWO.  What Would God Want Me To Do?  The Torah begins and ends with divine acts of loving kindness (gemilut chassadim).  In the beginning, God provides clothes for Adam and Eve (Gen. 3:21) and at the end, provides for Moses’ final resting place (Deut. 34:6).  In Genesis 18:1, God makes a visit to Abraham shortly after his circumcision at the age of 99. 



As highly as Judaism esteems the giving of tzedakah (charity), performing acts of kindness rank even higher.  In the Talmud, our Rabbis taught in the Talmud:  Acts of kindness are greater than charity in three ways.  (1) Charity is done with one’s money, while kindness may be done with one’s money or with one’s person [e.g., visiting a sick person].  (2) Charity is given only to the poor, while kindness may be done for both the poor and the rich [e.g., consoling mourners or those who are depressed].  (3) Charity is given only to the living, while kindness may be shown to both the living and the dead [e.g., arranging for the burial of an indigent person].  (Sukkah 49b)



I have learned much from the teachings of Rabbi Joseph Telushkin.  (We will welcome him to our bima to speak on Sunday, October 14)  Telushkin points out that Judaism ascribes great significance to doing acts of kindness.  However, making the effort to perform such deeds is a real challenge, because as we become older, many of us find it easier to be charitable with our money than our time.  In reality, the community needs both our time and our money, but if one HAS to choose one over the other, which is higher?  Jewish tradition teaches that offering one’s time, and one’s heart, represents the higher type of giving.



Let us start today.  Be on the look-out for opportunities to perform acts of kindness.  Do you see a frail person shlepping a package that seems too heavy for him?  Have you come across an acquaintance who seems upset and distracted, and in need of someone to talk with her?  Do you spot a neighbor who is recuperating from an operation and needs a companion with whom to take a walk to build up his strength?  Are you really so harried that you cannot let the driver pull into the traffic infront of you?  Today... this week... this summer, as you rush from place to place, ask yourself the question, “What would God want me to do?” 



TWO significant opportunities lay before us to grow Jewishly -- and as a mensch -- as a good and decent person.  Pick them both up!  Pat joins me in sending warm regards for health and happiness with summer.



Kol tuv (all the best) and shalom.


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