for G’d so loved that he gave the world
does it sound odd to you? oh, i know, you’ve heard something of a variant on this theme in christian circles, but think about that variant and then consider what is above, for what is above is the essence of the jewish view, i think. it really doesn’t need latter-day emendation (though see ‘of chesed’ in the lefthand menu of pages).
i hope that many of you will remember back just to last night’s seder, in which is found hallel, nestled into which is the much repeated call to prayer: “hodu l’adonai ki tov” to which we answer repeatedly, “ki l’olam chasdo,” or
thanks to G’d for G’d is good everlasting is G’d’s loving-kindness
some of you may know that the word ‘olam’ is both world and eternity….and that eternity is ‘beyond time,’ extending back as well as now and forward. the kabbalah has long taught that G’d created the world due to his overflowing capacity to love….creation erupts out of the ein sof from the desire to love. in Psalm 89:2 we learn further that: “the world is built with chesed.” last night we reiterated how we were redeemed from the narrow straits by a mighty hand and an outstretched arm….the power of G’d’s redemptive love for the enslaved. but G’d created all with chesed, with loving-kindness, and it is therein that the mightiness of the hand and the extending power of the arm is centered.
well, today is day one of the Omer, and the interinclusion is chesed that is in chesed. a double dose of chesed…the loving-kindness that is in loving-kindness. just as the world itself, our rebuilding of our spiritual world, now that we are freed from the slaveries we had imposed upon ourselves in the past year, begins utterly in chesed, the way of Avraham Avinu, who could plead for even the evildoers of sodom. what did Avraham have to gain by the possible continuation of the line of sodom? well, nothing. and there is the understanding of chesed she b’chesed.
how different would things be for trayvon martin and george zimmerman had there been a little more chesed?
the real question is, having once done a single act of chesed, can we become one of those who pursue it always? can we, like G’d, not only create a loving-kindness locale, but sustain and renew it constantly? the Zohar teaches: “who is a chasid? one who does chesed with the Creator.” we can do loving-kindness with our Creator if we realize that the ur-image of G’d that is our birthright is none other than chesed, giving that is unending and that does not look to take….or even receive.
mussar for chesed she b’chesed
chesed with another….bein adam l’chavero can you feel sympathy for strangers? for both victims and victimizers? not being sympathetic to any wrong done, but having empathy for both parties in their pain? that may be a bit much for many, so try it closer to home. give something to someone in need without weighing the decision or minding the amount. don’t wait to be asked! if giving change, simply empty your pocket…pull a bill out of your wallet without looking at the denomination….just sit down and listen to someone trying to tell you something–with no time limits, with no interruptions (no matter how badly you want to offer advice), with nothing but loving-kindness in your heart.
chesed with yourself….bein adam l’atzmo a classic exercise from the Steipler gaon is to try to speak (do email, etc) today without saying ‘i’ or ‘me’.
kabbalah for chesed she b’chesed
in assiyah….the world of doing/completion the weather forecast for the daylight hours is sunny and mid-60’s, so get outside and garden! but plant and feed…don’t weed! sustain your closeheld piece of Creation today, mindful of the needs of your plants, and all the critters that will benefit from your labors.
in yetzirah….the world of feeling/formation do you recognize how your parents, perhaps your best and oldest friends, or maybe your mate, have loved you with a sustaining chesed kind of love? one that takes you as you are? one in which your needs were so often intuited…or just known without your saying a word–and too often without your recognizing at the time that they were right? focus on that loving-kindness. imagine offering that to the world.
in b’riyah….the world of thought/creation each of us doubts, has anxieties, personal disappointments, shameful failings…nonetheless, each of us is subject to G’d’s everlasting loving-kindness. we were created in it; we are sustained in it. every morning we acknowledge that our neshamah-soul is breathed entirely pure into us by G’d. meditate on bringing that purity and sustaining loving-kindness to your dark places and afflictions.
in atzilut…the world of nearness to G’d/intuition the neshamah is breathed into us pure by G’d. do we ever take a breath that is not given by G’d? and when we exhale, are we ‘rid’ of G’d’s gift? or are we simply extending it to the rest of Creation? meditate on the everlasting sustaining nature of every breath you take….
kinyan 1 of 48 ways to acquire Torah
Torah….Learning “ki lekach tov natati lachem Torati, al ta’azovu”…’a good taking i have given you, my Torah, don’t leave [it].’ so the first way of acquiring (kinyan) Torah is to learn? uh, isn’t that just a bit redundant somehow? of course you acquire Torah by learning it! but the verse from Proverbs (4:2) points out the meaning: Torah is a good taking…we must grab it good….and hold on for dear life…not abandoning it. but we know that there are 47 other ways of acquiring Torah, so how can we do nothing but study Torah all the time? by taking it in. by making Torah firmly fixed in mind and heart and soul, we are ready to learn Torah in all that we do. and when we encounter someting that doesn’t seem to be Torah to us? well, hit the books again. when we look to Torah for the way to live, and not for any other personal gain, then it becomes a balm of life (Ta’anit 7).