While it is true that many Jews believe that observance of mitzvot (commandments) and strict adherence to Jewish Law is the path to eternal life, there are varying opinions regarding the centrality of ritual laws. One stream of rabbinic thought emphasizes gemilut hesed (deeds of lovingkindness) as taking precedence over all else. These acts of kindness, such as visiting the sick, burying the dead and bringing peace between people who disagree, can never be repaid. Rabbi Elazar quotes the prophet Micah to define lovingkindness: “You have been told what is good and what God requires of you: ‘to act justly, love kindness, and walk humbly with your God.’ What does this verse imply? To act justly, this is the law. To love kindness, this is deeds of lovingkindness. To walk humbly with your God, this is to bury the dead and accompany the bride to her wedding canopy.” Similarly, the Talmud lists examples of gemilut hesed, stating that the principal of the reward for these deeds—a richly fulfilling life— is earned in this world, and the interest is rewarded in the world to come. Personally, I am striving to achieve a life of gemilut hesed, with the early rabbis—and Jesus and Muhammed—as my guides along the path.
 Sukkah 49b
 Shabbat 127a
This is the third of three reflections on Eternal Life, originally posted in October 2011.