Musing on the mysterious purpose at the heart of human existence, Albert Einstein wrote, “one thing we do know is that we are here for each other.”
“Many times a day,” he continued, “I realize how much I must give in return for all that I have received and am still receiving.”
We live together with the rest of humanity in a constant state of exchange, throughout our lives both receiving and giving sustenance, shelter, insight, courage and companionship. These exchanges may be as simple and seemingly small as a smile or a word of encouragement. Or they may be as fundamental as the meal that saves the life of a starving child.
In many of the most profound exchanges of our life, we are completely unaware of the significance of our own acts of compassion; so we should not weigh them or compare them against those of any other person.
Jewish tradition nudges and encourages us to seize the opportunity for acts of compassion that come our way: visiting the sick, inviting a lonely person into our home, helping someone find a job, extending a loan, befriending a widow/widower, supporting a soup kitchen, helping two enemies to reconcile. It is far beyond our power to eliminate all the suffering of this world, but without the ongoing giving and receiving of human acts of compassion, the world we love would collapse.
Study, prayer, and acts of compassion, said Rabbi Shimon the Righteous, are the three pillars without which our world falls to pieces.
Inspiration for Your Personal Practice
Visit our CBB Caring Community page to learn about how you can become involved in many of the ideas below!
- Visit a friend or acquaintance in the hospital
- Offer to visit with a housebound friend, to give their family care-giver time off
- Volunteer on the Board or Committee of a non-profit
- Bring a meal to a family in mourning
- Bring a meal to a family with a newborn
- Become active in local or national politics
- Volunteer as a Big Brother or Big Sister or mentor in school
- Join one of CBB’s Social Action projects
- Give tsedakah (charitable gifts)
- Talk with a homeless person
- Provide a loan to help someone start a business
- Provide loans to individuals in need by supporting Santa Barbara Hebrew Free Loan
- Invite a single, a widow/widower, or a newcomer to your home for Shabbat or weeknight dinner