Q. Aren’t good deeds more important than praying?
A. Both are needed. Praying keeps us in touch with God and reminds us that we are expected to be His partners in perfecting the world. His principle is olam chessed yibbaneh, “The world is built through kindness” (Psalms 89:3). His kindness enables all of us to live; our kindness expressed in our good deeds enables us to use our lives to enrich others.
But if God is good and kind to all His creatures (Psalm 145:9), how come that some creatures happen to be poor and disadvantaged? Why don’t we say, “God, it is You who made these people’s lives bitter – why don’t You solve their problems?”
It could be that His answer is, “I have appointed all My children as my messengers to work with Me and help the others to become rehabilitated!” The sages say, “Just as God clothes the naked (Gen. 3:21), so should you clothe the naked. Just as God visits the sick (Gen. 18:1), so should you visit the sick. Just as God comforts the bereaved (Gen. 25:11), so should you comfort the bereaved (Sotah 14a).”
God does not necessarily work a private miracle for everyone who is in crisis, but He uses each of us as His representative to do the mitzvah. Like an agent whose act is legally the act of his/her principal, so our kindness is God’s. Through doing kindly deeds, we become truly human – and our humanity becomes truly Divine.