A father was sitting with his son, watching the sun go down over the hills in Judeah. They normally spent the late evenings like this, finding beauty and calmness in the landscape and the beauty of G-D’s creation. Suddenly the son asked his father: “Dad, how can I make sure that my life will be good? I mean, sitting here this wonderful moment, it won’t last forever, in a few minutes the sun is gone. What will I do, when the sun has left my life?”
The father was sitting a while, pondering on the question. “Son, thanks for what you are saying, and thanks for your faith in me. You see, there are three things that will make sure, that your world will be in order; Torah, the service (‘Avodah) of the Holy One, blessed be He, and on acts of loving-kindness (Hesed). Remember these three things in your life, and you will do well!” (Pirqey Avot, 1:2)
The son thought about these three things, wondering what it meant. How to understand these things? Okay, the first was easy, Torah is the center for the Jewish People, even for the whole world, so should he just have the Books of Moshe Rabenu (A”S) and that would be enough? And what about the service of G-D? And acts of loving-kindness, what did that mean? To be a good person? Give a shekel now and then?
The father was watching his son. “You are pondering on what I told you, eh?” The son smiled, “Yes dad, I mean, of course it give sense, but then again, service of G-D relates to the Beyt HaMiqdash, right? How are we to do that today?” The father smiled, grateful for his son’s interest. “Ah, yes. How to do sacrifices, when we’re only to do sacrifices in the Temple? First off, son. When I say “Torah”, I do not mean just having the Humash, the five books of Moshe Rabenu, A”S, but to implement it in your live. Make the study of Torah a fixed practice, study every day and be consistent in it (Pirqey Avot, 1:15). Always make sure to invite people who have a deep understanding of Torah, listen to their knowledge, and let their words about Torah be dominant (Pirqey Avot, 1:4), then you will get a deeper understanding and knowledge of Torah, and hence it will be implemented in your life. And regarding the service of G-D, does not the Torah tell us to serve G-D with all our heart (Devarim, 11:13)?”- “Well, yes, I think.”- “So, how to make sacrifices with the heart?” – “That is when we pray!” the son explained thrilled. “Exactly!” The father answered proudly. “So, you see, service is prayer!” – “And acts of loving-kindness?” Asked the son. “You know, when you give Tzedaqah to the poor, you are doing a great Mitzvah, but loving-kindness is even greater, since it is both for poor and for rich, whereas Tzedaqah is only for the poor. Loving-kindness is giving more of yourself, taking that extra step more than what is expected for you. As G-D has said: “The world will be built through kindness!” (Tehillim, 89:3)
The father and his son sat for a while in silence. Suddenly the son said: “But dad! I remember that a rabbi said, that the three things to remember are justice (Din), truth (Emet) and peace (Shalom)!” (Pirqey Avot, 1:18) The father smiled. “The rabbi is right, son. And I agree with him, we are saying the same thing.” The son looked at his father, “how so?” – “You see, Torah is truth, the service is justice, and acts of loving-kindness is peace. The Torah contains the truth about everything, and the one who delves deeply into it, will understand the deepness of G-D’s creation and everything within it. Through prayer we work with ourselves, and becoming better and more just people. And in doing acts of loving-kindness we will in truth establish peace in the world. As it is said: Be among the disciples of Aharon, loving peace and pursuing peace, loving people and brining them closer to the Torah!” (Pirqey Avot, 1:12) And as we say twice daily when reciting the Shma’: And put these things to heart, which I command you today! Today, my son, is this actual day, the Torah is given to us every day when we wake up. But now it seems like the sun has long been spreading its light another place, and we need to sleep before we can wake up, so off to bed, son!”
The two hugged, and while the father watched his son go inside, he thought about when his father taught him lessons of Torah, and gave thanks to G-D, that he too was allowed to be a sun, though only for a time.
A few notes:
The word “Hesed” connotes a good act done by love, not by plight, and hence I differ a little between this and “Mitzvot”, which are commandments, which certainly can be done in love, and should be too.
The word “Shalom” connotes something bigger than just “peace”, more like “perfection” or “harmony”, and hence in a world where everybody would do acts of Hesed, would be a world in Shalom.
May we become children of Aharon, builders of peace. And may the Holy One, blessed be He, shine upon us all, Jew as well as non-Jew.