Engaging in Kindness

29 11 2011
Based on a Naaleh.com shiur by Rabbi Hanoch Teller

Rachel and Leah In secular society, chesed (kindness) is considered a positive attribute but it is not something regulated or legislated. In Jewish tradition kindness is a significant value. In fact, the Chafetz Chaim wrote an entire book called Ahavat Chesed, in which he codified the numerous laws pertaining to this middah.

The Gemara in Suka mentions that engaging in chesed is superior to charity in three ways.  Charity is done only with money, but kindness can be performed with money and with one’s body. Charity is only given to the poor but kindness can be given to rich and poor alike. Charity is dispensed only to the living, while kindness can be done with the dead as well. It is called chesed shel emet (true kindness) because it can never be paid back.

The Mishna in Avot tells us that the world stands on three pillars, Torah, avodah (serving Hashem),and gemilat chasadim (kindness). Kindness holds up the world. The Gemara in Yevamot says chesed characterizes a Jew. In fact, being kind is such an intrinsic Jewish attribute that the Gemara says that if a person is ruthless one should investigate his lineage. The Midrash Rabbah asks why Megilat Ruth was canonized in the Bible if it contains no ritual laws. Rav Zeira answered that it was to teach us the great reward for those who do acts of kindness. The prophet Micha teaches that the three primary obligations of a Jew are to do justice, walk humbly with Hashem, and to love kindness.

The Rambam stresses in three of his eight levels of charity the importance of anonymity. We should always look for opportunities to do chesed whether we are acknowledged for it or not. Small acts of kindness that count big in heaven include picking up trash from the sidewalk, giving up your seat for an elderly person, helping someone cross the street, allowing another car to pass you, listening with your heart to someone down on their luck, giving your used clothing to the needy, praising someone for their good deeds, encouraging your children to donate their old toys, and initiating a dialogue at a social gathering with someone who appears left out,.

There was once a mitnagid who set out to prove that Chassidut was not all it was made out to be. He came to a Chassidic town and asked the townspeople where the Rebbe was. They answered that he had gone to say Selichot (the penitential prayers) in heaven. The mitnagid was determined to disprove their foolishness. The next morning he ambushed the Rebbe’s house and observed him walking out dressed as a lumberjack. He headed for the forest, chopped some wood, lugged it to the home of an old sick woman and lit a fire for her. When the mitnagid saw this he humbly admitted, “Surely he is in heaven, if not higher.”

Rejuvenating Our Bond

27 09 2011

Based on a Naaleh.com shiur by Rabbi Moshe Weinberger

Rejuvevating Our Bond The first Rosh Hashana at the beginning of creation was different than all future Rosh Hashanas. The presence of Hashem descended upon Adam without any effort. It wasn’t a matter of avoda, working to achieve an awareness of Him. Rather it was a complete itaruta dl’eleh, an arousal from above.

In the Rosh Hashana davening we say, “Zikaron l’yom rishon, a remembrance of the first day.” In order to reveal Hashem’s kingship upon us we must remember the brit. The brit is the immutable bond between Hashem and the Jewish people that can never be obliterated. This requires effort, an itaruta dl’tata, an awakening from below. This awakening is accomplished through the shofar. The shofar is an aspect of the highest teshuva. It is like a cry, a yearning from the depths of the heart, something very profound and powerful and impossible to contain in words.

The sages divided the service of Rosh Hashana into three parts: Malchiyot, Zichronot, and Shofrot. These are not three independent aspects but one unit with interdependent parts. Why does the memory of the brit depend on the shofar? Rosh Hashana is the beginning. On that day Adam was created and he accepted malchut Hashem (kingship). When we say, “Zikaron l’yom rishon” we connect once again to the memory of the beginning of the revelation of Hashem. The Rambam says the avoda of teshuva is shofar. It signals to us, “Uru yesheinim mishnaschem! Awaken from your sleep, you slumberers!” The brit, the covenant between Hashem and knesset Yisrael is hovering above us waiting to be rejuvenated once again.

The Zohar teaches that there are two levels of repentance, a lower teshuva and a higher teshuva. The lower teshuva is meant to return the soul to its state of purity before sin. The higher teshuva leads the soul back to the level of d’veikut, attachment to Hashem that it had before it became connected to the body. Shofar is an aspect of this highest teshuva. It is the return of the soul to the root of its existence. It could be that the Baal Hatanya uses the term teshuva ilohe to mean a higher level of teshuva where the person is so deeply affected by his distance from Hashem that it touches the deepest point of his heart and he is overcome by uncontrolled weeping and brokenness.

The Rebbe Maharash retold a parable from the Baal Shem Tov about a king who sent his son away to a faraway land to learn the ways of the world. After many years the prince returned to his father’s kingdom, bereft of everything he had and clad in tattered clothing. When he arrived, the people did not recognize him. They taunted him and beat him until he reached the palace courtyard and a cry of pain escaped from deep inside of him. The king recognized his son’s voice and ran out to embrace him. Similarly, Hashem decreed that the soul should descend into the world, to attain its reward. Lost in the maelstrom of physicality it moves far away and forgets that it was once connected to Hashem. The voice of the shofar, the cry from the depths of the heart, contains all the regrets and past mistakes of the soul. It expresses the profound pain of the Jewish people and how we have distanced ourselves and yearn to return. The call of the shofar, awakens Hashem’s love for us and we too are aroused to come back once again to His warm embrace.

Rebbetzin Heller is Helping Parents in Teaching Children To Be Givers

2 08 2010

Based on a Naaleh.com shiur (Torah class) by Rebbetzin Tziporah Heller


By nature, children do not enjoy giving. Babies know nothing about giving and everything about taking.  This is because very young children only hear their animal souls. You, as the parent must awaken within them another more elevated voice.

We live in a materialistic society where giving is undervalued. What counts is physical reality. In the material sense, the more you give the less you have while in the spiritual sense, the more you give, the more you are. Therefore, the first step in educating your child to give is to question your own attitude towards giving. Do a bit of introspection. How do you feel when someone asks you for a favor? What is your immediate reaction when someone asks you for a significant loan? If your attitude about giving is negative, don’t be hard on yourself. It’s normal not to want to give because we live in a very materialistic society. However, be aware that the language of the soul is giving; and the language of the body is taking.

By allowing yourself to be a taker, you commit yourself to your body. The body is journeying towards death which is why it yearns for repose. It’s root is death. Conversely, the soul is eternal and desires to give and to do for others. If you have your own inner crisis about giving, you will need to resolve it first before attempting to resolve your children’s’ crisis.

Ask yourself initially, “How can I come to enjoy giving?” There are various ways to reach this level. First, learn to identify with the recipient. Use imagery to cross a bridge that may be hard to cross otherwise. Suppose someone asks you for money to help pay for therapy. Picture someone who isn’t coping with life and imagine what will happen if you pay for therapy. Picture the person back on his feet, getting married, starting a family, and holding down a steady job. The more you see yourself in the recipient’s shoes, the more you awaken empathy within yourself for others, the more you’ll love giving.

Secondly, learn how to give with perfection. There’s a huge difference between making a complicated cake for a bar mitzva and handing over a box of store bought cookies. The cake signifies hours of effort and perfection and you can identify your higher soul in the gift.

A child’s desire to take and not give is much stronger than an adult’s. With very young children don’t expect much. They aren’t mentally developed enough to understand spiritual pleasure. Therefore, laying down the law is the way to go. You have to say, “We share here. Look at the clock. You get five minutes and he gets five minutes.”

Starting at about the age of five, it is possible to build empathetic understanding. This can be accomplished through storytelling. Have the hero stem from a different culture or use animal characters. This helps take pressure off the child. Your goal in storytelling is to have the child empathize with a hero who gives something to someone in need after which they both end up feeling good. You can use this basic storyline in endless variations for young children. The hero can either give honor, clothing, help with homework or assistance with understanding a new language. It is essential that the hero be a winner and not a loser, otherwise the child will not connect with the story. Your aim should be to teach them the joy of giving.

Give your child a sum of money and teach him about maaser. Initially, he won’t want to give the money to tzedaka.  Although he didn’t work  for it and does not as yet have a clear picture of what money can buy, he will still be loathe to give anything of his away. Try to open his heart by saving some of the Vaad Harabbanim booklets and reading him the stories.  Tell him how he can make a difference by donating his money. Once he’s experienced the pleasure of giving, you can move up a notch. Take your child to Geulah or the Kotel where collectors are wont to be found. Give him money to drop into a beggar’s cup. Then say, “Look what a mitzva you’ve done, now this woman can go home and buy a cake for Shabbat.”

Once you’ve passed these steps, you can then introduce the concept of giving as a part of the child’s personal life. A good place to begin is at home.  Tell your child, “The baby was so happy when you brought her a cookie,” instead of, “You were so good, you brought the baby a cookie.” This creates empathy.

‘Rebbetzin Heller’s Guidance is So Practical and So Inspiring!’

7 07 2010

Meaningful and Productive Summers for our Children

by Rebbetzin Tziporah Heller

‘I’m overwhelmed! Rebbetzin Heller’s guidance is so practical and so inspiring! To a generation of baalei teshuva (newcomers to religious Judaism)- who would have wished their mothers knew to give them such sensitive guidance – these classes teach us how to give our children something so so much better. Thank you. May you continue with mazal and Bracha.’

– Julia Silver  London, England