Thursday, November 8, 2018

Chanukkah Chesed Challenge

Tonight begins the first of the month of Kislev, which means Chanukkah (there are many English spellings!) isn't far away - it begins on the 25th of Kislev and ends on the 2nd of the month of Tevet. 

During these days, from today until the end of Chanukkah, I invite you to be part of the Chanukkah Chesed Challenge. 

Chesed means "kindness," and the idea of the Chanukkah Chesed Challenge is to work consciously, every day, to do one act of chesed, or kindness, to someone you encounter throughout the day. This act should be something that does not necessarily come easily and automatically to you, something that you probably wouldn't have done in the past. It should be an action, small or large, that feels new and is outside your comfort zone, something that you make a conscious and deliberate choice to do.

What might the Chanukkah Chesed Challenge look like for you? The answer, of course, is personal. If you are outgoing, an extrovert, with a tendency to be chatty, smiley and upbeat, it will probably mean something very different to you than if you are quiet, introverted, or a loner, or if you struggle with panic attacks or depression. But a common thread will connect all our efforts with the Chanukkah Chesed Challenge: we are all committing to opening our hearts wider, to work harder to notice others and to reach out in situations in which we previously might not have done so, and in the process, we hope to make ourselves better people and the world a kinder place.

In the Shema, a prayer recited twice daily, we are are commanded to love G!d with all our heart, with all our soul, and with all might. But how can we fully love G!d if we don't love people? And how can our love of either G!d or people be complete if we don't love the more-than-human would that surrounding us? Considering these questions, feel free to take your personal chesed campaign beyond the human world, and be kind as well to the trees and the air and the water. 

It might take time to figure out what to do. You may not actually do anything different on the first or the second day, or even the fifth or the sixth. The important thing is to be thinking about it and figuring out what it will be for you. 

So, I invite you and your family members, including your children, to join the Chanukkah Chesed Challenge and to continue your daily kindness practice until the end of Chanukkah. Let's see what happens to us. 

You are also invited to share some of your experiences - what you did that you don't usually do, some unexpected response you got, or anything else about this practice and how it makes you feel. I've created a form to collect our responses.  This is anonymous, though if you'd like to add your name, you may. If many of us add our reflections from time to time, we will get something wonderful out of it, I am sure. I will share selections from the responses from time to time. To record your experiences of the Chanukkah Chesed Challenge, click here.

I look forward to hearing from you.

Chodesh tov - may you have a good month.

Rabbi Katy

If you would like to contact me about the Chanukkah Chesed Challenge, write to rabbi @ mayantikvah.org.

Rabbi Katy Allen is the founder and rabbi of Ma'yan Tikvah - A Wellspring of Hope, which holds services outdoors all year long, and the co-founder and President pro-tem of the Boston-based Jewish Climate Action Network. She is a board certified chaplain and serves as an Eco-Chaplain and the Facilitator of One Earth Collaborative, a program of Open Spirit, and is a former hospital and hospice chaplain. She received her ordination from the Academy for Jewish Religion in Yonkers, NY in 2005 and lives in Wayland, MA, with her spouse, Gabi Mezger, who leads the singing at Ma'yan Tikvah.

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