Clinic Stories

A Smile and a Kind Word

People who have meaning in their lives, those who strive to make the world a better place, fare better than those who do not – they are happier, healthier and live longer. One of the simplest ways to brighten the world is with a smile and a kind word. Consider the impact of Rabbi Aharon Kotler.

Rabbi Kotler was orphaned at age 10, raised by an uncle and became a teacher in Lithuania. He escaped to the United States in 1941. Some of his students escaped the war to China but most were murdered by the Nazis. He founded a yeshiva (Jewish school) in Lakewood, NJ in 1943 which today is the largest yeshiva in the world.

When Rabbi Kotler died in 1962 the New York Times did not print an obituary. They did publish a story about a traffic back up at the Holland Tunnel the day of his funeral service. The tie up was not because of the 25,000 mourners at the service. Every time Rabbi Kotler came through the toll lanes on his frequent trips to New York he would talk to the the booth workers. He got to know all of them by name and always asked about their families, their health and their daily struggles. Out of respect for Rabbi Kotler the toll takers on duty stood in front of their booths observing a prolonged period of silence during his funeral service resulting in a traffic jam.

What brought media attention to Rabbi Kotler was not reviving Jewish education in the New World, it was his kindness and caring. A smile and a kind word are powerful tools.

Back to Top