Family Discussion Guide: Why Be Kind?

Be Kind book cover

You don’t have to be Jewish to be a good neighbor, a solid friend, or a community helper, but it certainly helps. Sure, it’s cool to be kind; kindness, chesed in Hebrew, is also a core Jewish value.

The Torah is filled with examples of mitzvot (the plural of mitzvah, Hebrew for “commandment” or “good deed”) — 613, to be exact. It’s a lot to keep track of, but not to worry. Rabbi Simlai, a third-century sage, taught: “The beginning and end of Torah is the doing of chesed.” (The Torah is the first five books of the Bible, but in this context, it refers to all Jewish learning.) The root of every good act is kindness, toward God, other people, and ourselves. If we focus on doing one small act of kindness at a time, we’re heading in the right direction. All of those little things add up and ultimately change the world.

Did you know that Abraham, the biblical father of Judaism, is specifically associated with kindness He didn’t just talk about kindness, he lived it. Once, Abraham was sitting by his tent in the heat of the day (we’re talking middle-of-the-desert hot!). When he saw three strangers approaching, he and his wife, Sarah, welcomed them and quickly prepared a feast for them. Nothing gave Abraham more joy than the mitzvah of hachnasat orchim (Hebrew for “welcoming guests”). Ever since, gemilut chasidim (“acts of loving kindness”) have been essential to Jewish practice.

In the PJ Library book Be Kind: It’s a Mitzvah, children explore various mitzvot and acts of kindness. Below are some ways to take this book’s inspiring ideas further and explore the Jewish value of kindness with your family.


Using the book Be Kind:

  • Which kind acts described in this book have you already done? Which new ones would you like to try?
  • Has someone ever surprised you with a mitzvah? What happened?
  • What do you think might be the easiest kind act in this book? What do you think might be the most challenging?

General questions:

  • Has someone ever done something kind for you that you didn’t expect? How did it make you feel?
  • Why is it important to consider other people’s feelings when we spend time with them?


Make a Kindness Journal


A post shared by PJ Library (@pjlibrary)


How to Make a Notebook With Recycled Materials


  • Paper
  • Crayons, markers, or colored pencils
  • Stapler & staples


Think of the unique ways that you like to show kindness to others. Make colorful drawings of each kind act, then staple them together as a book. Use the book to inspire you to do at least one kind thing every day. You can even close your eyes, open the book, and randomly choose a surprise act of kindness.


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