September 22, 2020 /

Chesed

What does it mean and how is it manifested?

The Chesed committee performs acts of loving kindness for our members in the ICCJ community in many ways. One way is to make phone calls to just check up on members who are elderly, and/or whom we haven’t seen in quite a while. Another is to follow-up with family members or friends if we can’t reach such a member. In the process of doing this we inquire if their needs are being met. We offer to assist by possibly picking up needed products (medicine, groceries, etc.). In pre-COVID 19 times, it was not unusual for some of us who are more mobile to drive others to medical appointments, or take them to lunch.

An important, but sometimes overlooked question to ask an ill person is: “Did you or a family member notify our Rabbi?” Sometimes, people forget, and then feel neglected if they were not called or visited. Visits to hospitals and homes, while typically thought of as part of a rabbi’s routine, serves as an enriching experience for a Chesed Committee member.

From Rabbi Sara Paasche-Orlow in www.my jewishlearning.com we learn:

Chesed appears in the Torah to communicate God’s kindness and love toward humanity as well as human kindness and love toward each other. Chesed emerges as one of the essential ways humans engage with God to sustain creation. For example, in the story of Sodom and Gemorrah (Genesis 18:17), the 15th century Italian commentator, Sforno, notes that the reason that God decides to engage with Abraham in discussion is based on the chesed that Abraham showed to the angels who visited him just prior to this in the text (Genesis 18:2). Human chesed here results in evoking God’s chesed.

The Talmud further establishes chesed as one of the core pillars of human behavior. (“The world rests upon three things, Torah, avodah, and gemilut hasadim.” Pirkei Avot

1:2) The term gemilut hasadim is distinctly post-biblical and occurs for the first time in the Mishnah. In the Babylonian Talmud, Sukkot, 49b, a discussion is related defining chesed by contrasting it with the other fundamental Jewish value of tzedakah.

Chesed is laid out as the broader value because it can be done not only with money, but also with one’s person. It can be given to the rich and the poor, the living and the dead. It furthermore states that, “The reward for charity depends entirely upon the extent of the kindness in it.”

Sol Sturm

Chairperson, Chesed Committee