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Chapter Thirteen:
A Final Word

Each of us has a choice when confronting tragedy. Instinctively we may wish to pretend we don't notice anything, It's not my concern." "There are others, professionals and close friends, who can do a better job than I can." We may wish to hide, for who wants to be exposed to such pain? To be confronted with our own fears? To be the kind of person described in Don Quixote: Someone who "give[s] when it's natural to take."

Those who succeed in overcoming this barrier of fear and reluctance find that such "illogical", unsolicited acts of loving kindness give us a tremendous sense of warmth and gratification at having done what we instinctively know is right.

The Talmudic sages tell us that "The world stands on three pillars: Torah, avodah and gemilut chasadim (Torah, prayer, and acts of loving kindness) (Avot1:2). The word chesed (the singular of chasadim) is translated as kindness and gemilut is interpreted as "giving" or "recompense". But when we put the two words together, they become "acts of loving kindness".

The sages ask why Torah and avodah are written in the singular, and chasadim in the plural. Their response is, when you do good for another, you are doing something for yourself as well." The consequence of an act of chesed is that it often leads to emulation by others. In short — everyone benefits. Chesed is considered greater than charity because you give charity only with your hands (when you give money), but you do kindness with your whole body and being.

A wealthy man once approached his rabbi. "Rabbi, how do I gain entrance to Gan Eden (heaven)?" The rabbi thought and said, "You must do three things: Give to the poor, take care of the sick, and bury the dead."

The rich man left the rabbi. On his way home he met a crippled beggar, whom he invited to his house to eat. "Ah," thought the rich man, "I've already accomplished the first step."