Parenting Through a Jewish Lens instructor Sabrina Burger shares her insights – and a challenge to you – regarding generosity. Sabrina lives in Sharon and is teaching this year’s Needham class at Temple Beth Shalom. Her thoughts are especially pertinent in the wake of Hurricane Sandy and the approaching Thanksgiving holiday.
Our tradition teaches that acts of loving-kindness are fundamental to sustaining the world. While each of us have an obligation to perform these acts of loving-kindness, in order to do so we need to open our hearts. Sometimes being in close contact with those in need can arouse a feeling of empathy and care; seeing the recent images of people suffering after a natural disaster prompts many to give assistance. But the question that interests me is not what opens my heart to an occasion, but how can I cultivate habits of mind in myself and in my children that will encourage a generous response?
Rabbi Dessler, one of the leaders of the Mussar movement of the 20th century, asked an insightful question: Do you give to the ones you love, or do you love the ones to whom you give?
Our sages teach us an important and surprising principle in Ethics of the Fathers (3:15): “All is in accordance to the abundance of the deed.” In other words, the sages believe that it is better to give $100 bills to 100 people than to give one single $100 bill to a single person. Why?
Because, if the action of giving arouses our hearts, then the action of giving 100 times is spiritually transformative. Here, our external actions can bring about internal change.
Since we’re discussing action, I might suggest that you take on a challenge this week: perform two actions of loving-kindness, two selfless acts, every day. You don’t have to be generous only with your money; it can be with your time, your energy or your possessions. See what happens.