Tuesday, May 9, 2017

Oh Goodness

“He [Rabbi Akiva] said:... The world is judged with goodness, and everything depends on the abundance of good deeds” (Pirkei Avot/Ethics of the Fathers 3:19).

God judges the world with goodness by always  looking for the positive, for reasons to sustain His creation. God wants people to emulate the Divine, to judge others favorably and to seek out ways of helping those in need. The more good deeds that people do, the easier it is for the world to be judged with goodness. This is important, since the Midrash, as explained by the great Medieval commentator Rashi, infers that the reason God destroyed the world in the days of Noah and the flood was because the people of that generation did not “do good” to each other. Rashi explains that the former [generation of Noah] were drowned, while the latter [generation of the Tower of Babel] did not perish from the world, because the Generation of the Flood were robbers and there was strife between them, and therefore they were destroyed. But these [the Tower of Babel generation] behaved with love and friendship among themselves.... Thus you learn that discord is hateful, and that peace is great (Rashi on Genesis 11:9).

Sometimes people delude themselves into thinking that good deeds must be actions that make a noticeable impact. But, the fact is that there are constant opportunities for good deeds. Small actions, such as complimenting a stranger, can have a tremendous, and often unrevealed, impact on the other person, as can sending a meal to a friend during a hectic time, giving charity to the begger you pass every day, or visiting the sick.

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