HesedLit. Kindness It is said in Pirkei Avot (Ethics of the Fathers) that the world stands on three things: Torah (learning), Avodah (worship), and Gemilut Hasidim (acts of kindness). is often understood as an outpouring of selfless love and kindness, yet sometimes we engage in acts of hesed out of a sense of what is right, without necessarily connecting to the source of that generosity. For example, the word tzedakahCharity. In Hebrew, the word tzedakah derives from the word for justice. Tzedakah is not seen as emanating from the kindness of one’s heart but, rather, as a communal obligation. is defined as not simply charity, but justice. We give tzedakah because it’s the right thing to do, even if we don’t feel particularly generous.
Tiferet of hesed, beauty of kindness, invites us to spend some time appreciating our ability to give selflessly, to see the beauty in these acts. It’s not about reveling or taking pride in your own generosity, but also not letting it slip by without a moment to say, “Hey! It feels good to be kind. It’s a beautiful thing.”
As you count the OmerFrom the second day of Passover until Shavuot, Jews count seven weeks – seven times seven days – to commemorate the period between the Exodus from Egypt and the Revelation at Sinai. When the Temple stood, a certain measure (omer) of barley was offered on the altar each day; today, we merely count out the days. today, conjure up a recent act of kindness you have performed for someone else, or an act that you plan to do today or in the near future. When you performed this act (or when you do in the future), did you take time to appreciate the beauty of it, or did you quickly move on to the next task on your to-do list? Bring to mind the person you helped. Perhaps you gave a meal to someone face to face. Perhaps you donated money to someone millions of miles away, seeking a loan for education. Imagine the look on their face when receiving your help. What expression did you see (or what do you imagine their expression might have been)? Did they smile, give you a hug? Did their eyes tear up? Did they run to tell a friend or family member of their good fortune? Allow yourself to bask in that moment of someone receiving kindness.
Remember this feeling the next time you choose to do an act of hesed. Kindness is not something to do and forget. You are allowed to feel the benefit of giving to others and take pleasure in the beauty you have added to the world.