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Love like a Camel, the Third Letter


WEEK 3:

ג/Gimel is generosity, steady, sustainable acts of loving kindness

overflowing from one to an other.

WORD: Generosity, sustainable forms of giving loving-kindness /Gemilut hesed

WORD-PLAY: This letter’s name, Gimel, is rooted in the Hebrew word for camel, gamel. Two prominent traits characterize the camel: 1) willingness to serve, and 2) endurance, able to travel vast stretches of desert without water breaks. (Apparently, the memory capacity of camel is also remarkable, rivaling that of an elephant.)

According to Pirkei Avot [wise sayings from the early rabbinic sages recorded in the Talmud], one of the three pillars that sustain the world is gemilut hasidim. Hasidim, or acts of hesed [lovingkindness], flow from an over-abundance of unconditional love. In God, such generous giving may be limitless. In humans, not so much. Like the camel, this week’s letter invites us choose wisely how we serve others with acts of kindness, to pace the giving so that our generosity can be sustained for the long haul. This is what it means to channel our love in to acts of kindness, like a camel, and like Abraham and Sarah, also known for their perseverance and service, and whose example is invoked in the first blessing of the daily devotional prayer with the words, gomel hasidim tovim [sustainably offering deeds of love and goodness].

PRACTICE: Consider the camel as a model for service. Give a gifting that you can keep on giving, again and again and again, without burning out. Here are some examples of gimel practices that are both repeatable and sustainable:

a) When you cross paths with someone (be they familiar of a stranger), be the one to initiate a friendly greeting;

b) Make an anonymous monetary donation – sneak an extra buck into the tip jar, drop your spare change into a tzedakah box or another vehicle for collecting moneys for charitable organizations;

c) set aside time this week to reach out (in person or by phone) to someone who may feel vulnerable due to isolation, illness or loss;

d) in the course of a conversation, be generous with available ‘air-time,’ listen more, speak less…and when you do speak, be generous with compliments.

Choose a practice that will stretch your well of generosity without emptying it. Exercising our generosity in modest and consistent ways, a little at a time, time after time, enable the well to replenish itself and grow its capacity, so that the acts of loving-kindness will endure across the longest, driest stretches of desert sands.

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