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  • Writer's pictureLeann Shamash

Tiny Tales of Kindness: Parshat Ki Teitzei

Blog posts on Words Have Wings usually take between two to five minutes to read. This post will take you longer to read, but I hope it will be worth your while. Before I begin this post, I wanted direct you to the poem I read at KI this week. I wrote it a few years ago and felt it was worth reading a second time.


Tiny Tales of Kindness: Parshat Ki Teitzei

This week, in honor of a parsha that lays out specific laws to show kindness to the powerless, I have asked people to share their own tiny tales of kindness.

In thinking about kindness, perhaps I have more questions than answers. What would our world be like if kindness was not dictated? Are some people more inclined to show kindness and, if so, why is that? Is it more of a challenge to show kindness or to be the recipient of kindness? How much time do we spend thinking about kindness before we take actions?

These were questions I asked myself when I sent out a message to people I know and asked them to comment on kindness. Perhaps I could learn something about kindness from the answers that I received?

I am deeply grateful for the people who took the time to get back to me with their responses, despite having only a few days to think about the request. It's still not too late to add your voice to these tiny tales of kindness.

What did I learn from the responses?

Communities can be built or destroyed as a result of kindness or lack of it.

Each of us can be inspired from other's acts of kindness. Other's actions stimulate us to do more and to do differently.

We never know how our actions will influence others and where our actions will bring them.

Imagine how your kindness changes the recipient's day or be mindful of how a kindness offered to you is received and then paid forward.

Sometimes kindness is planned, but sometimes we happen upon it. If this is the case, we must make that decision to offer kindness or not. Are we bold enough to take a step into the unknown and get past our hesitations to take this action?

Kindness can come from many places. Certainly from organizations, but often it is the small actions of individuals that are remembered.

No kindness is too small or insignificant.

As we approach Parshat Ki Teitzei and the season of teshuva, I hope that these stories will inspire you and get you thinking about kindness and what it means. Feel free to email me with your tiny stories. I would love to hear from you and add them to this post.

Shabbat Shalom,



This response was the first. I will use it here to illustrate the sensitivity that kindness involves:

morning on my walk,

one light strand of spider silk

touches my cheek, soft



Kindness doesn’t have to be an over the top gesture; small acts can make a difference in someone’s day.

You don’t know what people are facing behind closed doors.



Kindness came from a Baptist Christian friend who called me one Friday morning to ask how my partner was doing with his chemo treatments. I was depressed and sad and it was Friday, a day I long for all week to welcome Shabbat dinner with my kids and grandkids, which is something I never missed in many years in America and which brings my family home back to me.

That Friday I told my friend, "I am so depressed I can't even make Shabbat dinner." My friend said, "what you need is love, I am coming with vegetarian pot of soup (she knows I keep kosher) and challah and you will have Shabbat dinner" This act of KINDNESS opened my heart to see light in dark times.



A new country

A new language

A new house

Small children you are trying to raise

And suddenly...disaster...death of your closest friend, your mother.

Your world is shattered, you don't know if you will be able to survive.

You don't know how to talk, it hurts so much.

And then, out of nowhere, strangers appear at your door

They brought you food you never asked for.

Why would they do it?

I've never met them before!

I am confused and ...touched

By their kindness, their generosity, their selflessness.

It's a small gift that tells me: Life goes on...



Communities can come together to show kindness by taking the time to learn about those who are different from themselves. Whether it be a neighbor or store employee at the supermarket, it is very important to hear other perspectives; people feel valued when you take a moment to ask them about themselves and their lives. If we all show kindness to each other, the world would be a better place.



Here is a quote that I love - from Henry James::

"Three things in human life are important. The first is to be kind. The second is to be kind. And the third is to be kind."


Here is a magnet I keep on my fridge ...

I think of myself spreading seeds of beauty, kindness and joy ...

And imagining that these will bloom and grow

and help cultivate a better World for us all.

Danila Szekely


I am thinking about an immigrant from El Salvador. She is single, and she is helping two cousins. She works hard for them. I remember that she does not have children and is unmarried, yet she is supporting two kids, one whose mother died, the other whose father abandoned him.



A Kindness When We Needed It Most

I could not comprehend the news. In almost a wail, my husband said, “My father is dead!” My father-in-law, z”l, was the beloved patriarch of our family and a pillar of our community. He was in excellent health. He was a young 78-year-old who biked to and from work, despite having to cycle up a steep hill. The news of his death came as a total shock! He hadn’t been sick. He had never been hospitalized. My father-in-law was biking to work on a sunny Thursday morning, when he suddenly fell over and died. His family, his fellow doctors and hospital staff, and our community, were in disbelief.

The family quickly scheduled the funeral for that evening, so that he could be buried the next day in Paramus, NJ, with enough time to return home to Brookline for Shabbat. Despite the short notice, the funeral hall was packed. The next day, we all drove down to NJ for the burial and needed to immediately drive back to make it home before the early sundown. Our family needed to be together to process this sudden and tragic loss. My son was driving and suddenly noticed that the car was acting funny and veering, so he drove to the shoulder and stopped the car. To our dismay, we saw that we had a flat tire. As it was, we had been racing against the clock to get home before sundown. We despaired, now we would not make it home in time. Having to wait for our car to be towed and tire fixed would

mean that we would not be able to join our family for the weekend, something we desperately needed to do to help to grapple with our unexpected loss.

Just as we were trying to figure out what we would do for food for the weekend, a car stopped next to ours. It was literally under five minutes since we had pulled over. A man got out of his car and asked us if we had a flat tire. When we said we did, he told us that he could help us. He was able to repair the tire enough, or change it, so that we could drive it back home. He asked us, “Are you Jewish?” We answered that we were. He said that he thought so because he saw the guys were wearing yarmulkas. He told us that his former boss was Jewish and had acted with incredible kindness to him. As a result, when he saw us, he knew that he needed to help us. We were deeply grateful to him. He refused to take any money for his time, but agreed to accept some money to give to a charity of his choice. We will never forget his kindness. A total stranger saw that we needed help and took the time to rescue us. Thanks to him, we were able to make it back with one minute to spare before sundown. My husband and the rest of our family could be together with his mother and siblings to comfort each other.

When Christmas came around, I wanted to send the kind person who helped us a holiday card. When I looked at his business card that he had given us, there was no address or phone number. I looked up his company, but there was no information. I kept his business card in my wallet for years, as a reminder of the tremendous impact that kindness can make. I wonder if the man who helped us was actually an angel sent down from heaven to help us on such a sad day.



Story 1

A friend and I were out walking when we saw an old man, stooped over, walking

carrying a very heavy trash bag. The man’s clothes were old and ripped, and it

looked like he hadn’t taken a shower in some time. I must admit I’m a bit

uncomfortable engaging with strangers, but my friend stopped to say

hello, asked where he was going and offered to help him with the bag. Somewhat

to my surprise, he agreed. We all walked up the street to his apartment where

she handed over the bag, and we continued on our way. My friend’s simple act of

kindness to this stranger taught me a lesson of what kindness means.

Story 2

A few years back I was on a Caribbean vacation with my sister, sitting on the

beach. A couple of kids, maybe 8 years old, were playing near us and we smiled at

them. They came over to talk to us and we shared our snack. They seemed hungry

and not very well off. My sister gave them money to get a sandwich from the

kiosk, and they were so so happy when they were eating it! My sister’s simple act

taught me what kindness is.

Story #3

I was back in Israel one summer, driving with my sister H in her hometown. We

saw a woman walking down the street, lugging heavy shopping bags. My sister

stopped her car and asked her where she needed to go, and fortunately woman

agreed to take a ride. When we arrived at her house, my sister jumped out and

helped carry the bags up the stairs.

Kindness is compassion to someone else suffering or in pain, when you have no

interest and are not looking for any favor in return for your kindness – there is no

exchange of favors. You are doing something good for someone else who is in

need without expecting anything in return.



You thought of me when

We were apart - your actions

Illumined your care.



To give without thought

When someone’s hurting or lost.

It comes from your heart.

To treat with caring

How you’d wish to be treated

If tables were turned.



When I was about 10 years old, my mother had need for me to be occupied one summer day. She dropped me off at the YMHA camp where I knew no one. It was particularly awkward since it was costume day and of course, I had no costume. A very kind (and cute!) teenage counselor came to the rescue. He figured out a Cleopatra costume for me, a bathing suit with towel wrapped around me Egyptian toga style. I didn’t quite feel like Elizabeth Taylor as Cleopatra, nor that I quite belonged, but I felt a lot better. His kindness made a big impression on me, touches me now as I remember him.



When I look into the mirror, I sometimes don't recognize myself as being that same person looking right back. Could that older woman be me? The following are recent little acts of unexpected kindness by strangers. Could it be they saw an older person who needed help?

1. I was invited by my daughter to attend my grandson's graduation program from elementary school to middle school. She said to be there by 9:45 a.m. in the morning.for a 10 a.m. ceremony. I arrived promptly and discovered people waiting at the doorway to get in an already packed gym to watch the program. I asked a woman inside by the doorway if she knew where I could find a chair to bring into the gym. She immediately asked me to come in to sit on a chair near the doorway. I thought that chair was probably meant for a teacher or someone significant to the school. I reneged, but she insisted that I take the chair. Turned out, I was in a prime spot. The students walked right past me to the podium.. I happily was able to high five my grandson as he passed by.

2. A few weeks ago at Salisbury State Beach, I was leaving the beach area to go back to the parking lot. One needs to walk up a narrow incline of very deep sand.before reaching the boardwalk to the lot. With my chair on my back and two bags of towels, etc. on both arms, I was trudging quite slowly.. A beachgoer behind me, came up from behind and offered to take my bags to lighten my load to make my walk easier. I actually declined, determined to do it by myself. However, I thanked him profusely and let him pass me by.

3. Lastly, I was standing in front of Trader Joes with two full bags in my arms. There was a sudden down pour and I had no umbrella or any other kind of protection. I was about to somehow rush to my car, when a woman with a hooded raincoat going into the store approached me and offered to hold one of the bags and walk with me to my car. Fortunately, my car was a short distance from the entrance, so I said yes. Thanks to her help, I was able to quickly place the bags in my car.


An-on-y-mous gifts

Kind-ness now and for-e-ver

Gift-ee and give-r



Words of gratefulness

when friends lend a helping hand,

when you have a great need

ask nothing in return

pay it forward

help another person kindly Think good thoughts and it will be good



Out of commission

healing from a surgery

many meals arrive

* *

A child sits alone

invitation to play comes

spirits are lifted



We meet in Ukraine

Two Jewish teachers who bond

“Maya Sistra,” love

* *

They come from afar

Immigrants with so little

We teach each other



I live in an apartment complex in a suburb of a large city. A few weeks ago, I came home from a trip where I was visiting my family. I was sad because I had to leave them. I hadn't eaten for most of the day. My 4am wake up call was finally catching up to me. While I was gone, I left my car in my parking spot in my apartment complex. I found it broken into and someone tried to steal it. The ignition was ripped out and brightly-colored wires were dangling everywhere. The window was smashed and glass littered the ground like spilled jewels. It smelled like someone relieved themselves in it.

Of course, I began to cry. My skin crawled with disenchantment of my perceived safety. A man walked by and saw me bawling. He quickly turned away. I calmed down enough to call my insurance and the police. My insurance agent spoke softly to me. My tears stopped as I listened to her soothing tones. She was very kind and made me focus on what could be controlled. She guided me through the process and helped to ensure the car arrived at the body shop.

After three weeks, I got my car back. Within the first week, the underside of my car tore away from the body and began to drag as I drove. I duct taped it for lack of knowing how to fix it and for having just spent a lot of money having the break-in repaired. My neighbor saw me taping my car and offered to fix it. I've said hello to this neighbor, but not much else. I offered him money and he told me no, he'd do it for free. I'm not sure what made my neighbor offer to help me. After a month of having things go wrong with my vehicle and getting little relief, I'm compelled to do something nice for him to show that I appreciate his assistance. Even if it was just a throw away offer, it means something to me. I need that kindness because when so many things go wrong one-after-one, just a simple offer is enough to give you some hope that maybe your luck is turning around.



A smile and a hug

To comfort a troubled friend

Please grant her relief



It is almost five years since my dad died at the age of 89. He was in the hospital for about 10 days after a fall and then in hospice for two days before he died. I still remember the kindness that I felt from every single person who interacted with my dad during his hospital stay. There were over 30 doctors, nurses and social workers that supported him and our family during this time and each and every hospital staff member was an angel who exuded kindness. I remember one nurse who stayed with my dad from 11:00 pm to 3:00 in the morning just to talk with him, and how much she enjoyed their conversation. The kindness of the hospital staff made our family feel that we were all part of a caring community and I felt very blessed that my dad and our family were recipients of such authentic kindness and compassion from strangers in the last days of his life.



Kindness for me was when I use to do things for people. I would do errands, take in the mail. I always baked cookies and brought plants for new neighbors. I shoveled snow and mowed their lawns, but I can't do it anymore and that hurts my soul, because I won't be able to do in return.

I'm very grateful for all the help people give me. I have an amazing kind friend that I've known for 30 years. We used to swim together and now she helps me. My best friend in NYC calls me to make sure I'm ok. I know there is kindness all around. Last, the daily minyan is so special; I feel the love from everyone.



Recently I was on a stationary bus scheduled to depart WH for a parking lot. An elderly couple had just sat down and they seemed to be a bit confused and harried.

The driver entered and announced the intended destination.

The elderly couple had chosen the wrong bus.

They began to depart, hurried and confused, when an older stranger stood up and asked to escort them and their belongings to the correct bus. The offer was simple and altruistic designed to calm the couple and eliminate their confusion.



This afternoon while in Eilat I was politely approached by a tourist from Germany who was with his wife and young son. He asked where he could buy a parking ticket for their car. I told him that he can only pay through an app - which they do not have. I immediately offered to add their car to my app and pay for their parking.

To my dismay my app wouldn’t oblige but at least I tried. I hope they will remember this when they think about their time in Israel.



In terms of psychology, kindness is defined as paying attention and valuing others without any benefit, and I say that kindness requires being strong and brave, and in general, it is a social trait.



I have a generous friend who gives tzedakah to many organizations. My jaw dropped when I heard that he is in touch with the clergy in prisons, and gives to funds that provide "Fancy" sneakers to prisoners in need. I asked him if there is a reason for the person being imprisoned, so why is his giving is considered tzedakah? He said something that again that made my jaw drop. He said the prisoner has found G-d, and has repented for the crime. Seeing kindness from other people, and seeing that there are people who care will have positive impacts that cannot be measured.

To me, that is going above and beyond to make this world a better place!



During our recent trip to Norway, we were constantly reminded of Norway's law, which ended just 200 years ago, forbidding Jews to enter or live in the country.and their compliance with the Nazis was disturbing.

To our surprise and delight, when we ended up in the local E.R. we found the kindest and most medical staff that turned our hearts around as well as local people who were delighted to talk about Israel. Our hearts were turned around.



My mother died almost four years ago. Following her death, while my brothers and I sat shiva, the people from the local Sephardic synagogue cared for us with great sensitivity. They were there for every minyan. After each Shacharit they hovered over us and blessed us as my brother and I sat on the mourning chairs. I will never forgot their kindness during that time when my brothers and I were vulnerable.



My mother, years after she was divorced from my father for nearly twenty years, made it her business to visit his mother as she lay dying in the hospital. She also cared for her ex-husband all during the shiva period.



One participant sent me a story from the book Chicken Soup for the Jewish Soul by Jack Can­field, Mark Vic­tor Hansen, and Rab­bi Dov Peretz Elkins, eds. It was a story of a young boy who went to minyan each morning to say kaddish for his father. A minyan member knew that he was walking to synagogue alone each morning and offered to walk with him. It was only years later that the boy discovered that the man had gone well out of his way each day to walk with him. That act of kindness staying with the boy for many years.



I have a memory of my father when I was a teenager.

In one of those hot summer days he came home for lunch. At the time we were at the table having our lunch. A beggar knocked on the door and asked for food. My father asked my mom if there was more food and my mom responded no. Immediately my father wrapped his own plate and gave to beggar. When I asked him why, he told me it was because I didn't know how the hunger feels.

This one the reasons that I join the organizations which they help needy families.



Thank you to Danila Szekely for the image for this post.

You shall not subvert the rights of the stranger or the fatherless; you shall not take a widow’s garment in pawn. Deuteronomy 24:17

Remember that you were a slave in Egypt and that your God יהוה redeemed you from there; therefore do I enjoin you to observe this commandment. When you reap the harvest in your field and overlook a sheaf in the field, do not turn back to get it; it shall go to the stranger, the fatherless, and the widow—in order that your God יהוה may bless you in all your undertakings. When you beat down the fruit of your olive trees, do not go over them again; that shall go to the stranger, the fatherless, and the widow. When you gather the grapes of your vineyard, do not pick it over again; that shall go to the stranger, the fatherless, and the widow.

Deuteronomy 24:19-22

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