The most frequently cited cause for the destruction of the Second Temple is Sinat Chinam, best translated as senseless hatred. The in-fighting among the Jews of Judea, not only weakened their defenses against the Romans, but caused God to turn His favor from the Jewish people.

The mitzvot of the Torah are often divided into two categories: bein adam la’makom (between a person and God) and bein adam la’chavero (between one person and another). It is the Jewish understanding that while God can forgive a sinner who has transgressed against Himself, a person must appease his/her fellow to receive atonement.

One of the best ways to do battle with sinat chinam is by performing chesed, acts of kindness. There are many ways in which chesed can be done: visiting the sick, giving charity and even helping to bury the dead. Those who volunteer their time to assist an organization that benefits the community are also performing wonderful acts of kindness. But, it is always important to remember the ever-true statement that “kindness begins at home.”

As today has been designated “National Do Something for Your Neighbor Day,” Jewish Treats would like to point out some of the thoughtful things we can do to live up to this message, especially when it’s likely that one of our neighbors may be lonely. Although there is no specific directive in the Torah to cheer up a lonely neighbor, we could perhaps connect it to the mitzvah of being kind to widows, orphans or converts. Not only are these three categories of people who might easily be taken advantage of, they are also prototypes of individuals who may be missing vital links to the community around them. We could surmise that a lonely person is also likely missing some of these vital community links and might very well appreciate some attention from a considerate neighbor.

Note of caution: In trying to perform an act of kindness for someone, such as seeking out an elderly neighbor, be careful not to make the recipient of the kindness feel as if they are being sought out simply to fulfill another’s desire to perform and act of chesed.

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