We are obligated to be decent human beings. The Torah is filled with commandments and stories, lessons and guidelines on how to live our lives. But who can remember all 613 command-ments? Who can repeat every lesson learned from the Torah? It is nearly impossible to recall Judaism’s teachings regarding every facet of life. Judaism provides the framework; it is then up to each individual to complete the moral puzzle. No matter the difference in piece size or organization, the end result is the same. We are the formulators of our own puzzle of life. These are some of my pieces.
My personal code for living branches from the idea of Gemillut Chasadim – acts of loving kindness. It may sound cliché, but everyone should make an effort to give back to the community. People may interpret this as spending hours upon hours pouring blood, sweat, and tears into a monthly volunteer project. That’s not what I’m all about. Although I think it’s generous and in no way hurting the community, my personal code for living focuses more on the smaller, daily acts of humanity that may go unnoticed. Schedule kindness into every day. Give genuine compliments. Smile at someone who looks dejected. Lend a hand to person who is struggling. The little things do add up.
Judaism talks a great deal about respect. After all, “honor thy father and thy mother” is listed in the 10 Commandments. Respect shouldn’t end with your parents. There are educators and elders whom deserve respect as well. Aside from these individuals, my personal code for living focuses on respecting my contemporaries. It is unrealistic to say I will agree with every decision another person makes. I won’t approve of everything that another individual says. I won’t be friends with every person I come into contact with. There is a difference, however, between cordially coexisting and acting insolently. I believe a conscious effort needs to be made to be respectful. God gave us free will. God gave us the power to make choices and voice opinions freely. God alsogave us a mind and a heart that is capable of respecting others.
As a 16 year old, my puzzle of life is far from complete. I have more to learn and experience. However, the values aforementioned will remain integral pieces. As Anne Frank wrote, “Give of yourself…you can always give something, even if it is only kindness.”