Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Kindness Without Fanfare

There is a fascinating story in the Talmud that demonstrates the importance of being conscientious in the way one does something for another person:

Mar Ukba had a poor man in his neighborhood into whose door-socket he used to throw four zuz every day. Once [the poor man] thought: ‘I will go and see who does me this kindness’. On that day [it happened] that Mar Ukba was late at the house of study and his wife was coming home with him. As soon as [the poor man] saw them moving the door he went out after them, but they fled from him and ran into a furnace from which the fire had just been swept (Talmud Ketubot 67b).

The commentators derive many valuable lessons from this story. Throughout halacha (Jewish law) there are dire warnings against embarrassing another person. In fact, it is compared to murder. The Rambam (Rabbi Moses ben Maimon/Maimonides) specifically lists anonymous giving as the ideal form of giving tzedakah/charity. 

The lessons of Mar Ukba’s story are just as important today as they were in the time of the Talmud. In a world where television personalities often turn acts of kindness into public spectacles, it is best to remember that the most important aspect of an act of kindness is the kindness itself - not the recognition. This idea applies to all types of acts of kindness, from giving charity to praising a co-worker’s efforts to the boss. 

Today’s treat is in honor of Random Acts of Kindness Day. 

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