By Gila Jedwab, DMD
Some things just go together. Meatballs and spaghetti. Peanut butter and Jelly. Laverne and Shirley. Truth and kindness. In Tehillim, these two are bosom buddies. I always wondered about their interesting partnership, why they are mentioned together all the time. Recently, I have begun to understand why they became roommates and do their best work skipping and singing down the street (80s sitcom reference).
Some examples of their classic friendship:
- Tehillim 25:10. “All the ways of Hashem are kindness and truth.”
- Tehillim 86:15 “Abundant in kindness and truth.”
- Tehillim 89:15 “Kindness and truth precede Your Countenance.”
Truth and kindness are next-door neighbors on the block of G-d’s 13 Attributes as well.
My favorite poetic image of these qualities is found in Tehillim 85:11. “Kindness and Truth have met, Righteousness and Peace have kissed.” I love the mental image of that kiss.
I always wondered how the second pair fell in love. Why must Kindness and Truth first rendezvous before that kiss can happen? I now understand that Truth and Kindness come to balance each other out. After Truth and Kindness become equal partners, Peace and Righteousness can step forward and express their love.
Kindness and Truth are the sweet to the salty. Have you ever met someone so kind that it turns cloyingly sweet, while too much salty truth can really sting the eyes? These two ingredients rely on each other for equilibrium.
When Kindness is not reinforced by the backbone of Truth, it becomes as pliable as silly putty. Kindness can be bent and manipulated. Kindness can be reformed and refashioned into weapons of guilt and mass coercion.
I have witnessed children masked up and elderly locked up because kindness molded itself without any truth inside. There is no way to dispute an argument of Kindness without immediately looking like the bad guy.
Kindness with no pillar of truth at the center can rapidly slump into cruelty. Unsubstantiated Kindness can twist and turn and take on a silhouette resembling madness.
When we don’t acknowledge Truth standing like an elephant in the room, we can end up getting trampled to death by its cohort, unadulterated Kindness.
The Truth that’s recently gone missing looks like this: coronavirus ended up being less deadly than the annual flu. That’s the description. Have you spotted him anywhere? This vanished truth is all we need to set kindness straight again.
[Editor’s Note: Here’s a quick look at the number of cases and deaths for the last two flu seasons (in the U.S.) and COVID-19 to date:
|2017-2018 Flu||2018-2019 Flu||COVID-19|
|Cases||45 million||35 million||7.5 million|
Truth is a powerful, invisible force; it creates a whirlwind of movement, because it emanates from Hashem. In a eulogy to his father, Rav Kook said, “One of my father’s most distinctive traits was that of emet — truth. Not even the smallest measure of truth goes to waste; it must cast its influence, either immediately or in the future. Anything that emanates from the truth of the soul remains firm and abiding, active and influential.”
Not a single word of truth ever goes to waste. Keep speaking it wherever you go.
Another truth hit me during the Yom Kippur davening. A truth that I think all of us can agree on. Hashem is invisible. No man has seen Him and lived.
British neurologist Oliver Sacks said: “We see with the eyes, but we see with the brain as well, and seeing with the brain is often called imagination.”
An active imagination is critical for one thing: forging a relationship with Hashem. Inside this vast inner playground we can picture His hand assisting us. See His gaze soothing us. Feel His armor shielding us. Imagine His mouth answering us.
Our imagination is where we conjure G-d as real. It is the place we go to string Divine redundancies together. Catch a nod of Divine timing. Feel a synchronistic fist-bump from Above. You can picture G-d as your muscular bodyguard or shamanic healer. Whatever image makes you feel His Protection the most. The entire relationship happens inside your imagination. It’s all yours to play with.
Viktor Frankl speaks of how he survived the camps. He credits one thing — he imagined his wife. “But my mind clung to my wife’s image. Imagining it with uncanny acuteness. I heard her answering me, saw her smile, her frank and encouraging look … I understood how a man who has nothing left in this world still may know bliss if only for a brief moment, in the contemplation of his beloved.”
We, too, can feel instant salvation in the contemplation of our Beloved. Hashem is the one beloved who stays invisible to us all our lives. Why does He do this? So we can never lose Him. No one can take our imagination from us.
This is why G-d begs us not to replace Him with an idol. While an idol can be held and seen and that is temporarily comforting, an idol can also be misplaced or destroyed. Hashem chooses to stay invisible. This forces us to cultivate a relationship with Him inside that invisible realm, so He can never be lost to us. The relationship we create travels with us through space and time. The relationship is what we carry with us back to the other side. It is light and travels well.
We say, “Tzur Chayeinu, Magen Yish’einu” three times a day. The Rock and the Shield of G-d also exist inside our imagination. Good thing. They are a lot easier to carry around that way. Unlike the mask, you don’t have to turn your car around because you forgot them at home. Hashem has always been our best protection from the invisible and from the real. My relationship with Hashem has always been my thickest protection; it has a higher filtration rate than any mask on the market.
I aspire to the imagination of the warrior monk in Star Wars, Chirrut Imwe. He walked calmly through a hail of gunfire silently chanting one phrase, “I am one with the Force, the Force is with me.” Not one bullet touched him. I tell my kids The Force is Hashem, talk to Him. Your relationship with G-d is something that can never be taken from you.
Whenever Truth and Kindness meet up, they create a bubbling alchemy. When they get together, sparks fly. When they touch, it generates enough combustible energy to set off the second half of that verse from Tehillim. Righteousness and peace are exothermically compelled to lean in and kiss. What a lovely sight to hold in the imagination.
While I’m at it, I may as well imagine another scenario inside my head. Our families all strolling down the balmy tree-lined streets of Jerusalem walking in calm unison towards the Kotel to feel G-d’s Shechinah.
Kindness and Truth, Righteousness and Peace are walking a few paces ahead of us, arm in arm, leading the way. We are all smiling so hard it hurts. We can’t believe it’s really happening. May we arrive at that euphoria quickly and easily. Close your eyes and imagine it with me.
Dr. Gila Jedwab has been practicing dentistry for nearly two decades. She graduated from the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey (UMDNJ) in 2000 and completed her residency in general practice at Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital in New Brunswick, New Jersey. Her dental practice is in Cedarhurst.