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Do the Right Thing, in the Right Way, and Often: G’milut Hasidim/Acts of Loving Kindness

As we continue to follow the text of the Eilu D’Varim prayer, this month we will focus on the second item in the list: G’milut Hasidim/Acts of Loving Kindness.

So important are these deeds that they are part of what, according to The Rabbis, is holding up the world: “The world stands on three things: Torah, Avodah (worship), and Gemiilut Chasadim (acts of loving kindness)” (Ethics of the Fathers/Pirke Avot, 1:2).

Acts of Loving Kindness/G’milut Hasidim are the actions we perform for others that require us to give a little bit of ourselves. They are activities we put some thought or effort into before, during and after we do them. We think about the people we are helping, the organization we are serving, or how exactly the money we are donating is going to help whoever we are giving it to.

Are we supposed to give until it hurts? Well not exactly, but we certainly should be aware that we are doing something important, not mindlessly going through the motions. We should be working, writing or acting with intention or kavannah.

The books I want to suggest to you this month, clearly demonstrate Acts of Loving Kindness filled with intention.

The Lion & the Mouse Written and illustrated by Jerry Pinkney. Little, Brown Books for Young Readers, © 2009 (ages 3-9) In this Caldecott Award winning, wordless picture book adaptation of the classic Aesop’s fable, a meek little mouse disturbs a resting lion. Unexpectedly, the lion lets the mouse go. When later, the lion is captured in a rope trap, the mouse repays the kindness by freeing the lion.

The Bear Who Shared Written and illustrated by Catherine Rayner. Dial Books for Young Readers, © 2010 (Ages 3-7) The plorringe is about to ripen. Norris, the bear, patiently waits as Tulip, the raccoon, and Violet, the mouse, touch and test the delicious fruit. Who will get the ripened fruit when it finally falls?

Rabbit’s Gift By George Shannon. Illustrated by Laura Dronznek. Harcourt, Inc., © 2007 (Ages 3-8) Winter is coming. When Rabbit finds two turnips, he is happy thinking he will be set when the snow comes. However, when he thinks about his friend Donkey, who is all alone, Rabbit decides to give his second turnip to her. But Donkey has plenty of food, so she shares with Goat, who shares with Deer, who shares with…As each animal thinks of another friend, they come to realize there is enough food for all of them to share what they have together.

Ordinary Mary’s Extraordinary Deed By Emily Pearson. Illustrated by Fumi Kosaka. Gibbs Smith, Publisher,   © 2002 (Ages 4-8) Ordinary Mary changed the world by picking some ordinary blueberries from an ordinary bush, putting them in an ordinary bowl and setting them on Mrs. Bishop’s porch. Mary’s simple act sets off a chain reaction that sends a message of love to every person in the whole world.

God Said Amen By Sandy Eisenberg Sasso. Illustrated by Avi Katz. Jewish Lights Publishing, © 2000 (ages 5-9) The Kingdom of Midnight has plenty of water but needs oil to light their lamps at night. The Kingdom of the Desert has lots of oil but needs water for their garden plants.  Unfortunately, the Prince of Midnight and the Princess of the Desert are both too proud to ask for what they need and too stubborn to give what they have without being asked. In the end, a simple act of kindness by two young people brings the two kingdoms together.

Mercedes and the Chocolate Pilot: A True Story of the Berlin Airlift and the Candy that Dropped from the Sky By Margot Theis Raven. Illustrated by Gijsbert van Frankenhuyzen. Sleeping Bear Press, © 2002 (Ages 8-11) Mercedes and her mother are living in West Berlin during the Soviet blockade of the city in 1948. Food and fuel are scarce, but when Mercedes’ mother reads her a newspaper story about a Berlin Airlift pilot who is dropping candy for children out of his ariplane, Mercedes decides she must get some.

Love, Ruby Lavender By Deborah Wiles. Harcourt, Inc., © 2001 (ages 9-12). Ruby Lavender loves her grandmother, Eula.  She has the exact opposite feelings about her schoolmate, Melba Jane. When Ruby is “abandoned” by her grandmother, who must leave their small town of Halleluia, Mississippi to visit a new grandchild in Hawaii, Ruby puts her loneliness and energy into raising her three chickens.

Maniac Magee By Jerry Spinelli. Little, Brown Books for Young Readers, © 1990 (Ages 10-14). In this Newbery Award Winning book by a master storyteller, we read the legend of Jeffrey Lionel Magee.  As with most legends, the lines between fact and fiction are a bit blurry. What is true, however, is that Jeffrey Lionel Magee left a definite impression on the town in which he lived.

Makeovers by Marcia By Claudia Mills. Farrar Straus Giroux Books for Young Readers, © 2005 (Ages 11-15). Marcia is “overweight” by 5 whole pounds, is praying her 8th grade dream date will ask her to the fall dance and has just learned her art teacher thinks her drawing of a girl looks like “Barbie.” Things could not get any worse…until her Social Studies teacher assigns her to a community service project at the nursing home! What is she supposed to do with a bunch of old people?

Every Soul A Star By Wendy Mass. Little, Brown and Company, © 2008 (Ages 11-15). Three teens come together to witness a total eclipse of the sun and find that their lives are about to be changed forever.

Notes from the Dog By Gary Paulsen. Wendy Lamb Books, © 2009 (ages 13-16). Finn planned to spend the summer sitting at home, reading and not talking to any more than 12 people. That was until Joanna moved in to house sit next door. Joanna decided that Finn should plant a garden for her – in his back yard! But wait, there’s more…much more.

The Power of Half: One Family’s Decision to Stop Taking and Start Giving Back. By Kevin Salwen & Hannah Salwen. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, © 2010 (ages 14-Adult). Seeing a homeless man and a person driving an expensive car at the same time on the same street corner triggers a life changing decision for one family. They will sell their house and give half of the profits to charity.

In order that each child reading these books will get the most from them, I created Speak Volumes: A Jewish Values Based Family Reading Program. Go to the Family Reading Program Section of my website, locate the October/Tishrei list of discussion questions and activities. Use these when reading together with your children to see and understand the value of G’milut Hasidim/Acts of Loving Kindness in each of these books.

Wishing you a wonderful Sukkot.

Happy Reading,

Kathy B.

©2011 Kathleen M. Bloomfield and all rights reserved.
Books used in this review came from my own collection or my local public library.
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