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What you can do with an idea and a phone call

Shootings here and also there, potential war, politics worse than ever — but we'll improve things with #kislevforkindness
Rebecca (Becky) Wood Simkovich and Sarah Sicherman, co-founders of #kislevforkindness. (courtesy)
Rebecca (Becky) Wood Simkovich and Sarah Sicherman, co-founders of #kislevforkindness. (courtesy)

Becky wakes up Rosh Chodesh morning – the first day of Kislev. November 8th. It is 10 days after the Pittsburgh Synagogue Massacre. It has been day after day of depressing news; shootings here and there, wars threatening, elections reflecting politics worse than ever, a world reverberating with the pounding on the drums of dehumanization from every angle. It’s enough to make you want to turn over and go back to sleep. Maybe it will all go away.

But you’ve got to get up every morning with a smile on your face. Kids have to go to school, you have to go to work, etc. etc. etc. Just, this won’t quite do. There must be something to do about this; some way to respond to the depression of being here feeling like there’s nothing that can be done.

Rosh Chodesh Kislev today. Something new, something can renew, something can change. What? It’s Kislev — what could Kislev bring? Out of nowhere, an inkling of something to come, some light draws itself out of the fog like waking up from a deep sleep, flows into Becky’s mind, becomes an idea that takes shape… Kis, kiss. Lev, heart, live. Kislev is sweet, is a time for a kiss… for kindness. Kindness creates life, the world is built from kindness, Kislev can build kindness. But it needs us to bring it to life, to paint the reality, to paint over the black canvas and return it to vitality. A trigger was pulled and killed goodness; we can conceive and deliver kindness, trigger life out of depression, re-humanize.

Becky picks up the phone, and calls Sarah. Let’s start something that restores, brings us back, something that defies depression. What can we do?

Maybe an act of chesed a day, an act that’s simple and can be done by any willing giving person, publicized on the web, and appreciated in a way that triggers life. Help someone with the garbage. Give old clothes to charity. Even smile at someone who is down. Let’s dedicate a specific action each day: Monday to help with garbage, Tuesday to give away the clothes, Wednesday to cheer people up. Let’s post it on a calendar on the web, so everybody shares in the spread of chesed, and inspires each other. Let’s be kind, be simple and not showy. But let’s change someone’s day. Let’s do something adults can do, and that kids can also do.

Becky, what do you think? Let’s get it out there, let’s do it now, let’s see what happens.

A lot happens. Check the website #kislevforkindness. Hundreds and hundreds are joining in. Responding to the day’s kindness mission. Posting what they did. Jews, and non-Jews too. All interested in kindness; all building with kindness. Kind of amazing!

Joseph is double crossed by his brothers, thrown in a pit, sold and sent down to Egypt, enslaved and degraded. Jailed for life, as good as dead, all his dreams torn as his clothes. But Joseph is brought out of the jail. Joseph then saves Egypt from starvation, and in so doing eventually saves his family. What was meant to trigger his death, what was done with ill intent, triggered kindness. Joseph made it so, despite so many reasons not to.

It always can happen this way. A person can choose to be an animal, to horrify. The challenge is — when confronted with irreparable horror — can you turn around and trigger kindness. This is what it is to become human, in every generation. Meet dehumanizing horror, by re-humanizing the world with chessed. #kislevforkindness – עולם חסד יבנה/ Olam chesed yibaneh – G-d built the world with kindness. You too can join the membership of this club. #kislevforkindness. You come too!

About the Author
Rabbi Moshe (Marvin) Simkovich is a professional development coordinator and consultant for the Associated Talmud Torahs, ICJA, and teaches at the Melton Institute in the Chicago area. He was the founding Head of School and Dean of Judaic Studies at Stern Hebrew High School in Philadelphia (now Kohelet YHS), and taught for many years at Maimonides School in Boston. He also served as the rabbi of Congregation Shaarei Tefilla in Newton, MA, and was the Orthodox advisor at Brandeis University. A graduate of the University of Chicago, he received his semicha under the direction of Rabbi Moshe Meiselman, and, among others, studied under Rabbi Yisrael Gustman zt"l.
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