Have you ever heard 50 tweens and teens gleefully shout out the words “Kindness and Compassion/Chesed v’rachamim” at the top of their lungs for fun? I have.
In fact, not only have I heard it once, but I’m lucky enough to hear it every single day right after lunch when our middle school students gather to sing Birkat HaMazon, the Jewish blessing of gratitude after eating. Not only do they sing this blessing with ruach, spirit, (which if you’ve ever worked with teens or been a teen you know is a miracle in and of itself) but whenever they come across the words chesed (kindness) or rachamim (compassion) during the prayer they give those words an extra boost of spirit and song. So why do they give these words an extra shout?
Kindness and Compassion, in Hebrew (Chesed v’rachamim) are the middot (character attributes) we are focusing on this month in our school Keshet of Kavod (Rainbow of Respect). While we are learning how to develop these attributes in ourselves and in our actions, the students are also discovering that they are found everywhere in Jewish tradition, from the siddur to the Torah. Obviously kindness and compassion aren’t only Jewish, after all you may have heard this past November 13th was World Kindness Day, but by framing these essential building blocks of being a decent human being as also essential to being Jewish we are teaching the students that Judaism isn’t a religion of old dusty books that live on a shelf, but rather a tree of life for them to hold on to, with relevant teachings for their life that they can put into action on a daily basis.
We invite you to join with us this month as we notice and explore how we each embody and act out compassionate kindness at school and at home.
And to get you started, here’s an animated darsh about this week’s Torah portion Chaye Sarah that highlights the Matriarch Rebekah as a symbol of kindness for us to emulate.