for G’d so loved that he gave the world
but you know, that really doesn’t cover it. too been there, done that to express the nature of G’d’s chesed. let’s try again…
for G’d so loves that he gives the world
it is ‘ki l’olam chasdo,’ after all….l’olam is not an event completed, but rather one everlasting, sustaining, nurturing, always. G’d’s chesed, G’d’s loving-kindness is always, and always has been since the time of the desire to love before the Creation itself. chesed is a defining attribute of G’d. and it is one of the pillars on which the world stands (Pirkei Avot 2:1). chesed is rarely absent from the words of Torah itself, for we find it well over 200 times, usually speaking about G’d.
but we are created in G’d’s image. perhaps the primary thing we desire then is to love….unconditionally. if only we were better at it! but we are human, not divine, and we have an alternate that we can choose to follow. we have a yetzer hara, an inclination to do wrong, and we so often express it in taking rather than giving.
we devote ourselves so keenly to taking…as though Creation is owed to us…that we don’t even see the giving that is behind every taking we do. we contribute mightily to the pain and suffering in the world, we contribute to it in large part simply through indifference….indifference to others both near and far. but all the time that we are taking, that we are causing pain, that we are suffering from the taking of others, we continue to simply breathe. our minds continue thinking, our hearts beating. THAT is G’d’s chesed, the continuing, underlying, sustaining and everlasting loving-kindness that we ‘take’ for granted.
human chesed is not unlike G’d’s chesed, except that we are significantly less capable…but the root of chesed is the same. it is based in the soul’s ability to give, to be generous, to be concerned enough about another’s well-being to give and give again, and again. we have the capacity to be souls that will go out of our way to give….and THAT is human chesed….when we go out of our way to give.
but also to receive. receiving is the completion of giving, and is not taking at all. receiving is to know chesed extended to you and to be grateful. the cycle of giving-recieving is the way of loving-kindness. taking knows little gratitude as it is a function of the expectation that one is entitled to what is taken. this is part of the distinction between chesed and tzedakah. because tzedakah is a responsibility, and obligation, a commandment ‘owed’ to those in need, it can sometimes be met with taking without fault. people do not necessarily owe gratitude to the giver of tzedakah. are you surprised?
to do justice…..is a verb form in Micah. love kindness…is 2 nouns that work together so tightly that they are become one word in the english translation of chesed: “ahavat chesed,” writes the prophet, the love of chesed….or loving-kindness or maybe love-kindness. it is not a pure commendment, but something of a state of soul.
“a person should say to him/herself about every person, ‘it is enough that he has been goo to me or to another in a particular way, or that she has a particular positive quality. after this fashion, one should delight in chesed.”
so teaches the Remak. to delight in chesed is to be as G’dly as a human can be. with delight comes the desire to do again and again and again…until we do continuously….almost like breathing….THIS is ahavat chesed.