One could say that the endurance of loving kindness is what propels human culture forward in a positive direction, the lifeblood of goodness, the hope of the world. Let me give you a couple of examples: One from my own life, and another from The Five Books of Moses, and the foundation of all of Jewish life and lore. The Torah is considered the heart and soul of the Jewish people, and study of the Torah is a high mitzvah. The Torah itself a scroll that is hand lettered on parchment, elaborately dressed and decorated, and stored in a decorative ark. It is chanted aloud on Mondays, Thursdays, and Shabbat, according to a yearly cycle. Sometimes "Torah" is used as a colloquial term for Jewish learning and narrative in general..
Let’s just say that my mother did not have “the proverbial happy childhood.” (That’s a direct quote from her.) However, many times, I heard her speak of one grandmother, Halena, from whom she felt so loved and protected. She would reminisce how this grandmother bathed her
and made special food for her and sang to her.
Years later, when I realized that this grandmother lived in New York, and my mother grew up in the midwest, and people didn’t fly around like they do today, I asked my mother when she saw this grandmother. She replied, “She came out to visit once for about two weeks.” I was shocked at the profound impact Halena had had on my mother.
When I became bat Lit. Commandment. It is traditionally held that there are 613 mitzvot (plural) in Judaism, both postive commandments (mandating actions) and negative commandments (prohibiting actions). Mitzvah has also become colloquially assumed to mean the idea of a “good deed." at age 45, the rabbi asked my mother if she would like to give me a Hebrew name after a specific relative. She chose Halena, which means light, in Greek, hence my name Me’irah. (And that was before I became an illuminator of texts!)
Because of this family story, I have believed that The quintessential Jewish leader who spoke face to face with God, unlike any other prophet, and who freed the people from Egypt, led them through the desert for forty years, and received the Torah on Mt. Sinai. His Hebrew name is Moshe. was imbued with his Israelite identity during the period that his mother, Yocheved, nursed him, and bathed him, and sang him Hebrew songs before she had to return him to Batya, Pharaoh’s daughter. (Ex 2:9) So that when The quintessential Jewish leader who spoke face to face with God, unlike any other prophet, and who freed the people from Egypt, led them through the desert for forty years, and received the Torah on Mt. Sinai. His Hebrew name is Moshe. left the palace one day to find a Hebrew slave being beaten (Ex 2:11–12) his identity lay with the Hebrew slave. And thus continues the whole story of the Exodus.
Lovingkindness endures and ripples outward, and one never knows the full extent of the goodness that can come from it.
Image by D’vorah Horn from her set of Omer Practice Cards (2016).