Learning and Living Jewish Wisdom: Moving forward on My Life Journey
Sharing Insights: Unnoticed Miracles

Kindness Is Foundational and Revelatory: Let Kindness Flutter

Walking along towering trees

Today is Day 241 that the Israeli hostages are in captivity. Bring them home now!

It’s nice to be nice. It might not seem to be a powerful message, but it’s one worth taking to heart—and action. To me, it’s up there, for self and society, to be among the most important and aspirational.

In a recent daily video, the rabbi of the Palm Beach Synagogue talked about kindness, proclaiming that it’s “the foundation of the world.” The book of Numbers (called Bamidbar in Hebrew, which means in the Wilderness or Desert) he said “is about kindness. God’s kindness to the Jewish people, the Jewish people’s kindness to future generations.” Then, he said that “the foundation of the world is built on kindness. Kindness is the foundation of our lives.”

Kindness is not generally thought of as a religious attribute or character trait of note. It’s basic and it should be easy. It’s not asking you to consider that you may have hurt people (intentionally or inadvertently) and then ask for forgiveness of yourself or anyone else. It’s not asking you to work on your anger-management issues or your patience, so that you don’t make yourself and the people around you uncomfortable. Can you imagine what the world would be like if people were kind to each other, both as individuals and as groups?

What does it mean for kindness to be foundational? It seems worthwhile to contemplate this on an individual basis, helping assess and learn from one’s own actions, always striving to be better—kinder. Why? Think about how we feel when someone is kind to us? My new neighbors brought freshly-baked cookies when they introduced themselves to me. A new acquaintance walked me partly home from an event at the temple that I will soon refer to as “my temple,” to show me a way to go that is not up and down a steep hill. That warm and fuzzy feeling, and desire to return the kindness to those people and others is tangible.

For many years, I was a teacher. I learned that if I didn’t quiet the part of me that was annoyed or frustrated at a student or students, the annoyance continued, and with it the uncomfortable feeling in the room. And lackluster teaching and learning continued. But when I focused on them—not knowing what a child was going through or how they were feeling or why they were acting in the way they were at that moment—I simply tried to be my best person. Remembering, too, that in addition to teaching content, I was there to be an example of how to act even when annoyed (perhaps purposely triggered by astonishingly loud purposeful pen-clicking), I could feel myself calm and my voice find a softer, brusqueless, tone, certainly better for teaching and mentoring.

My interactions with my ex-husband showed me how unkind I could be, and that was hard to acknowledge. Though it also showed me that I never want to relate to any one again when I was guided by anger, hurt, and tit-for-tat self-preservation.

Which brings me to watching the seething anti-Israel, anti-Zionist, Jew-hating, West-hating, Democracy-hating protestors. They show what it means to not have a shred of kindness directing one’s actions. No explanation can excuse or explain someone calling for the death of another person or people. Or for using rape to achieve anything. What is at the core of their interior world? Where has the kindness fled, if it was ever there?

I have read and heard plenty of insightful analyses of what is happening in our world right now and why, but I can’t stop focusing on the brutal visuals. The burning north of Israel that seems invisible to the world because Israelis are suffering. The pictures of the hostages before they were kidnapped, fearing what they look like now (those who are still alive), after 241 days in hell. And then across the world, the mob mentality that seems to suppress individual thinking and compassion (kindness on a higher scale). And the invisible bystanders, whose timidity belies their own thoughts of their goodness, unwittingly enabling the mob to fester and grow.

While there may not be a simple solution to any conflict between different peoples and religions and ways of life and claims to land, it does seem to come back to people not being kind to each other. But perhaps it’s more basic even than that. Can you be kind to yourself when you harbor hatred? What good can you share with the world if you condemn others to a life of fear?

In researching the butterfly effect, I read what Alessandro Filazzola, a community ecologist and data scientist, said about the impact that one’s individual actions can have; “The items I buy, the people I interact with, the things I say, I believe can each have their cascading effects that ripple through society. That is why it is important to try and be a good person, to create a positive influence. One thing I also think about is how these indirect effects are often not as small and removed as I believe many would think.”

This is my cry, my plea to each of us: to see each other as a good person—I am good and you are good—and act accordingly. I want to tamp down the animus I feel toward those who call for my murder because I am a Jew and an Israeli, and even an American. I cannot force anyone to see me assuming goodness, but I can be a butterfly flapping my wings, living my life with kindness as its foundation.  

A group of butterflies can be called a flight, flirtation, flock, flutter, kaleidoscope, rabble, swarm, or wing of butterflies. Pick the imagery that works for you. Then, imagine your goodness joining with others, fluttering in goodness together. This image will help me remember that my actions are not isolated, that they are part of a larger entity, working to create positive change for us all.


Baking dozens of bagels



Laura, as I read your post, I realized one of the two books I downloaded from Libby is Radical Kindness: The Life-Changing Power of Giving and Receiving by Angela Santomero. It popped up in the available books and I thought it would be something affirming to read (during this time of the many anxiety-producing articles I seem to be immersed in every day).

On a personal note, kindness is a small seeming but immense behavior. When I am at my most vulnerable, the small acts of kindness by others are the ones I remember, sometimes decades later.

It's lovely that your neighbors brought you homemade cookies and so thoughtful (but I imagine they are the type of people who do these acts of kindness and don't realize how rare that kind of thing is these days). When we moved into our current home, a neighbor brought us a plate of barbecue and it really touched us and made us feel welcome. We try to do the same when new neighbors move in. These little acts build community and create such a sense of belonging. Little bits of connection in a world that can seem so cold.

Kindness is foundational, and I will flap my wings down here as you flap your wings up there, adding to the kaleidoscope of goodness.

Laura of RTOAW

Flapping wings! Perhaps I need to do it at the speed of the hummingbirds in my new backyard, rather than the slow flutter of the butterfly. Though, accepting the pace at which things happen may be a part of the process. Perhaps another key is to try to expand the neighborhood.

I just borrowed that book! Online libraries are amazing!


Laura, if we could flap at the speed of hummingbirds, we'd have toned arms in no time! :D

Yes, my Libby app is the greatest invention since sliced bread. (I think you're the one who told me about it in the first place.)

Verify your Comment

Previewing your Comment

This is only a preview. Your comment has not yet been posted.

Your comment could not be posted. Error type:
Your comment has been posted. Post another comment

The letters and numbers you entered did not match the image. Please try again.

As a final step before posting your comment, enter the letters and numbers you see in the image below. This prevents automated programs from posting comments.

Having trouble reading this image? View an alternate.


Post a comment

Your Information

(Name is required. Email address will not be displayed with the comment.)