Jewish tradition elevates deeds of loving kindness (chesed) to the highest possible ranking among soul-traits. Only some problems have solutions, but all are alleviated by the loving response of those around us.
In Pirkei Avot (2:1) we learn that: “The world stands on three things: on the Torah, on the service of God, and upon acts of loving kindness.” The fact that chesed is one of the three pillars on which the world stands underlines how very important this soul-trait must be.
We can learn from God’s chesed that what we call loving kindness involves acts that sustain the other. In the Mussar view, there is little value in fostering unconditional good will in your heart and wishing someone well. You have to tap those feelings to reach out your hand with real sustenance to another, by way of money, time, love, empathy, service, an open ear, manual assistance, a letter written, a call made, and on and on. People can and do draw sustenance from many sources.
Chesed is giving sustenance to others, but it has to come out of kindness and compassion, no other motive. That means that acts qualify as chesed only when they are motivated by a spirit of generosity. You are not obligated to do it, you aren’t repaying an act done for you, you don’t hope to get anything in return — you are generously reaching beyond those limited acts to give of yourself in a spirit of honest and selfless generosity.
As you expand your consciousness of kindness, you create a more spiritual life. Your kindness and compassion for the Creator’s children is an expression of your love for God, the Sustainer of the universe.
How can we pass this important lesson on to our children and grandchildren so that they too can experience the gift of doing chessed? Sefer Hanetina is a Hebrew translation of The Giving Book: Open the Door to a Lifetime of Giving.
This book is wonderful for young readers aged 6-11, inspiring teaching and engaging them to give back to the world. It is a unique, fun and interactive book that helps children think about their wishes and dreams for the world and the power of their actions to make those dreams come true. The book combines colorful illustrations and entertaining narrative with fun learning activities-making the children the author of their story and creating a ‘scrapbook’ of their journey into compassion and giving.
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