Showing Kindness in Our Difficulties

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Again Abraham bowed down before the people of the land and he said to Ephron in their hearing, “Listen to me, if you will. I will pay the price of the field. Accept it from me so I can bury my dead there.” — Genesis 23:12-13 

Each week in synagogue, Jews read through the Torah from Genesis to Deuteronomy. The Torah portion for this week is Chayei Sarah, which means “the life of Sarah,” from Genesis 23:1—25:18.  

My abba, Rabbi Yechiel Eckstein, was not only my father, but also my professional mentor. One important lesson he taught me was that no matter how difficult a day at work might be, I must leave the stress behind me when I come home to my family.  

As my father, he modeled this behaviour by being loving and present with my sisters and me, no matter how hard his workday was. As my mentor, he taught me to do the same with my own children. It’s not always easy, but no matter how challenging my day is, I leave the tension behind so that I can embrace my family with patience and love. 

In this week’s Torah reading, we learn about the death of Sarah. According to Jewish tradition, Sarah died upon hearing that Abraham was about to sacrifice her beloved son, Isaac. In the span of one day, Abraham faced the unthinkable task of following God’s instruction to sacrifice his only son, then obeyed God’s command to abort the mission, and then arrived home to find that his wife passed away after hearing about his actions. 

After this emotionally and physically trying day, all Abraham wanted to do was give his wife a quick and proper burial. However, according to the sages, the owner of the burial cave, Ephron, was an extremely difficult person who gave Abraham a hard time. After refusing to sell Abraham the cave, he finally agreed to sell it, but at an unfair and astronomical price. Yet, even after such a difficult day, Abraham never lost his patience with Ephron and treated him with dignity and kindness. According to some sages, Abraham’s greatest test and his finest moment was showing kindness despite his difficulties. 

Have you ever had a hard day only to encounter a challenging person in the grocery store, your office, or your home? It can be difficult to stay patient and kind when are already feeling stressed and worn out. Yet, as I have had to learn, we need to leave our personal difficulties behind and treat each person with kindness — no matter how difficult another person might be.  

It takes practice, but like Abraham, when we do succeed, it may very well be our finest moment. 

Your turn: Next time you encounter a difficult person, instead of losing patience, try showering them with kindness and love. 

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