Loving Kindness Is Actually My Religion

Friday, 21 February, 2020 - 9:58 am

Everyone has those things that get under their skin. One of mine, is a car with covered with bumper stickers that demonstrates irreverence to organized religion, and then has a one that says “Loving Kindness is My Religion.” Now I know that that statement originates within a specific religious sentiment. But, when it appears in the context of someone showing off their “secular bonafides,” while rubbing the faces of all “believers” in the dirt, that ticks me off a bit! Now, I have a sense of humor and I can handle an occasional poke at things I consider sacred. However, I can’t stand the air of superiority being implied. As if to say, “While you Neanderthals, who believe that there is a G-d telling you how to live, practice prejudice based on your G-d’s ideas, we enlightened folk are the ones who know what loving kindness is and how to properly practice it every day.” The irony that they are not projecting loving kindness towards anyone in an organized religion that they don’t like… but that’s a story for a different day.

What they are conveniently forgetting is that Loving Kindness actually is my religion. Not in the “look I am being a loving, caring compassionate human” kind of way. But rather, in a very real structured, yet understated kind of way.

Consider these three texts from the Sages of the Talmud.

1.      What’s hateful to you, don’t do unto others. This is the entire Torah, the rest is commentary. (Hillel the Elder)

2.      “You shall love your fellow like yourself.” Lev 19:18 “This is a great principle of the Torah.” (Rabbi Akiva)

3.      The following verse contains an even greater principle: “This is the account of the descendants of Adam [when G-d created Adam, in the likeness of G-d He created him]. (Ben Azzai)

What could be more compelling than seeing every human as created in the Divine Image as a motivator for respecting the dignity of each person and treating them with loving kindness? In a Darwinian model, the drive to survive or even thrive, could very well supersede the humanistic calling for acting kindly towards another. So next time you see one of those bumper stickers with the word fiction made out of religious symbols, and the claim of the dude’s karma running over your dogma, inevitably there will be the sanctimonious declaration of how loving kindness is his religion. Hopefully you won’t be stalled on the side of the road, because most likely that car will not stop to help you…

On the other hand, did you hear the story of the guy with a kippa standing on the side of the interstate with a blowout? A Jewish guy pulled over to help him. After they got the tire off and changed, a brief conversation revealed that the guy did not know the first thing about Judaism. When the Jewish guy asked him why he was wearing a yarmulke, he replied, “My daddy told me to always keep one of those Jew caps in the glove compartment. If you break down, put it on and a Jew will stop to help you…”

Shabbat Shalom
Rabbi Mendel Rivkin

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