Upon three things the world stands:
The worship of God;
The bestowal of lovingkindness.
-Shimon the Righteous
Discussion Guide [1:2].
What role do you think that prayer should play in our lives?
Do you think that prayer can help us personally? How?
Shimon believed that the power to do kindnesses to others is one of the gifts of being alive.
Couples in love, fond parents, and doting grandparents all find it a joy to help their loved ones,
without any thought of recompense. But in many circumstances people feel reluctant to help, including
for such Rabbinically mandated obligations as visiting the sick, rejoicing with the bride, and
comforting the bereaved.
What attitudes make a person reluctant to do acts of kindness?
What outlook makes a person more eager to do acts of kindness?
How can we cultivate these qualities in ourselves? In others as parents or teachers?
Helpful actions do sometimes engender resentment and even bad behavior in response;
Somerset Maugham said bitterly that “no good deed goes unpunished”.
Under what conditions do generous actions cause resentment, and when not?
Do you know someone who is very giving, and whose kindnesses are not resented? What do they do?
“Nice guys finish last”—baseball manager Leo Durosher.
Is possible to be kind and a successful competitor, a ‘winner’?
How can you combine the two?
Three signs indicate membership in the Jewish nation:
compassion, modesty, and the practice of charity. (Yevamot 79a.)
This proud claim in the Talmud presents a very different ideal from that in much popular entertainment today.
“Modesty”, baishanut, also translated as ‘shyness’, is the quality of being very sensitive and averse to
anything that might be seen as shameful. By contrast one pop singer boasts “I’m not the same, I have no
shame.” And some boast of the “thug life”, of domination and not caring, rather than compassion and charity.
How do the lives of those who boast of shamelessness, not caring, and domination, compare to those
who live close to the Talmudic ideal?