We are in the middle of the Days of Awe, the ten days between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, when we are to focus on three primary activities:
– Teshuvah, asking for forgiveness and returning to our true moral and ethical selves by correcting our behavior.
– T’filah, prayer.
– Tzedakah, giving charity to those in need.
When I spoke on Rosh Hashanah eve, I added two more values to this list: rachamahn, compassion, and gimilut hasadim, acts of loving kindness, which are really part of both teshuva and tzedakah. At that service, I asked everyone in attendance to participate in rachamahn and gimilut hasadim during these ten days of repentance between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur. Doing so would help to form the habit of showing compassion, loving kindness and mercy so that this behavior would become second nature to us.
At the end of services, I distributed a card that said, “Smile. You’ve just been tagged! Experiments in Anonymous Kindness is the name of the game and now you’re it!” On the other side of the card it said: “Someone reached out to you with an anonymous act of kindness. Now it’s your chance to do the same. Do something nice for someone. Leave this card behind and keep the spirit going.”
If you missed the opportunity to take a card, more will be placed on the table at the entrance to the sanctuary. If you took one, used it, and want to take another, help yourself! Everyone, children too. Use the cards to remind yourself to act with rachamahn, compassion, and also to perform simple acts of kindness. These acts don’t have to be anonymous and they don’t have to involve money, or be expensive. You don’t have to give someone a smile card. If you prefer, just put one in your wallet or pocket to serve as a reminder.
And I would be so grateful if you would email to me your experiences (firstname.lastname@example.org). I may report on them to the congregation, but it will be anonymous of course.
May these smile cards inspire you to follow the path of rachamahn, compassion, and gemilut hasadim, lovingkindness, and tzedakah, charity; to open your own heart and lead others you encounter to pay it forward. Shana tovah – may you be written in the Book of Life.
G’mar chatimah tovah – may you be sealed in the Book of Life,
Rabbi Debbie Israel