IN THE 2015 Disney movie “Cinderella,” Ella’s mother tells her, “Remember to always be kind and have courage.”
I admit I am a sucker for the Cinderella story, not because a woman is rescued by a prince but because it tells of someone who continues to be good and kind despite all odds and is ultimately rewarded for having the courage to stay true to that goodness.
I think this particular “Cinderella” had such an impact on me because that message was so strongly woven throughout the movie. I remember leaving the theater thinking what a wonderful world this would be if people just remembered to be kind and have courage.
The Torah repeatedly speaks of the importance of these qualities.
“And when you reap the harvest of your land, you shall not reap all the way to the edges of your field, or gather the gleanings of your harvest; you shall leave them for the poor and the stranger” (Leviticus 23:22).
On courage, we read in Psalms 138:3, “When I asked for your help, You answered my prayer and gave me courage.”
The Jewish tradition of Mussar, which focuses on various human character traits, speaks of the need for kindness and courage as critical to a balanced life.
It advises when meditating on courage to “do the right thing without fear of the consequences.”
The importance of kindness is also evident in the Talmud, which says: “The world stands upon acts of loving-kindness.”
These two characteristics are often connected because it can take courage to be kind to those who are vulnerable, or those who can be of no benefit to us. For example, it can take a great deal of strength to be kind to someone who is being bullied because it may also lead to taunts and harassment toward us.
It’s so much easier to go through life thinking only of our own needs and ignoring the suffering around us. It’s far more pleasant to keep quiet when we see injustice or wrongdoing in society.
It takes courage to take a stand and speak out against a wrong. Those with the strength to tell an employer they will not follow a directive that is illegal or immoral could lose their jobs.
In dictatorships, people risk their freedom and even their lives to resist those in power. In the end, history shows that those who had courage, and who took risks to demand society protect the most vulnerable, were the true heroes.
Bob Dylan reminds us of those who are blind to injustice in “Blowin’ in the Wind”:
Yes, ’n’ how many times can a man turn his head
And pretend that he just doesn’t see?
Yes, ’n’ how many years can some people exist
Before they’re allowed to be free?
Yes, ’n’ how many ears must one man have
Before he can hear people cry?
Yes, ’n’ how many deaths will it take till he knows
That too many people have died?
The answer, my friend, is blowin’ in the wind.
The answer is blowin’ in the wind.
Rabbi Karyn Kedar says, “Listen to your conscience. It is your compass, your North Star. It will guide you when the night is dark …
“Never betray your sense of right. The self can not truly be full without tending to the needs of others.
“We live in relationship, not in isolation. Our quest for kindness and love must extend beyond the walls of self to the hearts and minds of others” (God Whispers).
When faced with a difficult moral decision, remember the Mussar advice on courage: “Be strong as a lion, strong as the sun.”
Kein yehi ratzon … may it be God’s will. Shalom.
Issues of Faith is a rotating column by five religious leaders on the North Olympic Peninsula. Suzanne DeBey is a lay leader of the Port Angeles Jewish community.