middot loving-kindness daily living loving-kindness in action

loving-kindness in action

Written by  rabbi benjamin ehrenfeld

art-gasstationMy maternal grandfather is often one of the least effusive people I know. He has a big white beard and it is rare that one can get a sense of what’s going on under there at any given moment. Affectionate would not be the first word that comes to mind when I think of him. At the same time I can safely say he is the kindest man it has ever been my privilege to know.


He and my grandmother live in a small town in western New York and they are known, and loved, by nearly everyone. I was driving to their home for winter break one year of college and had gotten turned around. I went into a gas station to get directions and met a gentleman who was from their town. I knew to tell him whose grandson I was. Sure enough the guy let me follow him all the way to the main road because my grandfather had shown him deep kindness at one point.

Lovingkindness transcends outward appearances for him. It is actually a way of being for my grandfather. He is not kind so that others will feel like he’s being kind. He is kind because he actually wants to help others with whatever they may need. This is not to suggest that affection is inherently superficial. Nevertheless, one’s way of being can overcome what may initially seem to be a rough exterior.

Shammai said, “Say little, do much, and greet everyone with a cheerful face.” Even is no one can see your cheerful face, the attitude and way of being are what really matters. Whenever someone is in need, the first thing my grandfather does is find out what exactly they need and then either provides himself or finds someone who can provide. He does not let a need he is aware of pass by without having done something to be a part of the solution. Be it through prayer, sitting and listening, making a phone call, giving a ride, etc.  we each have the opportunity to live very similar lives. May we all grow in active loving-kindness!

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