The great Torah sage, Rabbi Yechezkel Levenstein, was once riding in a taxi when the Israeli-driver related the following incident: “When my friends and I completed our army service, we decided to explore the jungles of Africa. One afternoon, one of my friends woke up screaming. A boa constrictor had wrapped itself around his neck. We did everything we could to break the snake’s grip, but nothing helped. Finally, one of the guys yelled, “Say the Shema!” In sheer terror, our friend started saying the Shema. Miraculously, the snake released its grip and slithered away.” When the rabbi inquired where this guy was today, the taxi driver responded that his friend had become more religious after the incident. “That’s amazing!” exclaimed the rabbi, pausing for a moment before asking, “And what about you?”. “Me?” said the cabbie sheepishly, “The snake wasn’t wrapped around me!”
There is a tendency as humans for us to overlook even the most powerful experiences. We encounter so many powerful moments of inspiration. They should really propel us to new levels of growth and development. How do we avoid this pitfall so we may cherish those tender moments and use the inspiration to create lasting change?
Last week’s Torah portion describes the giving of the Torah on Mount Sinai. It was such a powerful moment that Jewish people literally had an ‘out of body’ experience. In contrast, this week’s sedra of Mishpatim seems to go straight into a long list of over 50 “every day” laws. Genuine spirituality comes through running with the inspiration and bringing it into everyday living.
There are some special people who don’t wait for opportunities to perform chesed (acts of kindness) but rather actively look out for them. This unique quality is described by the prophet Micha 6:8, “Do justice, love acts of kindness and walk humbly with your G-d”. These actions engender a genuine change of heart and a sense of personal integrity.
Do justice, love acts of kindness and walk humbly with your G-d.
Captain Sir Tom Moore epitomised this idea. He was a beacon of hope and a tremendous source of positivity and inspiration through his life and actions. Heeding the call to respond to the plight of the NHS, under strain, he responded immediately. We applauded him on Thursday night in recognition of all that he had accomplished as well as all those he campaigned for. Captain Tom was a hero. Not just for the £33 million he raised for NHS charities but also because he was an influencer who set the example and inspired us all. He demonstrated that each one of us can make a difference!
After riding the crest of inspiration, we need to propel ourselves forward into action. Like Captain Sir Tom, we have the chance to create our own legacy. We achieve this, as he did, with small steps. A kind word, a smile, a weekly phone call to someone who feels alone. Small acts of kindness are the very things that make the difference. Life becomes meaningful through those small actions that touch the hearts and souls of others. This is something we can do, even during the pandemic. Perhaps, especially during the pandemic.