75 words for 75 years of Israel – Chesed/Kindness

In honor of Israel’s 75th birthday, Israel365 is excited to launch a new series of essays that will unlock the secrets of the Hebrew Bible!

Excerpted from Rabbi Akiva Gersh’s forthcoming book, 75 Hebrew Words You Need to Understand the Bible (available soon!) these essays illuminate the connection between related Hebrew words, revealing Biblical secrets only accessible through Hebrew.

Enjoy the series – and happy 75th birthday to the State of Israel!

חֶסֶד

CHESED

CHE-SED

KINDNESS

“And showing kindness to the thousandth generation of those who love Me and keep My commandments.” (Exodus 20:6)

ועשה חסד לאלפים לאהבי ולשמרי מצותי.

“I declare, ‘Your kindness is confirmed forever; there in the heavens You establish Your faithfulness.’” (Psalms 89:3)

כי אמרתי עולם חסד יבנה שמים תכן אמונתך בהם.

Chesed, “kindness,” is one of the most fundamental values in Biblical tradition. The Bible begins with an act of chesed, when God provided clothing to Adam and Eve after their sin, and ends with an act of chesed, when God buried Moses. God’s extraordinary chesed is emphasized in the Ten Commandments. “But showing kindness to the thousandth generation of those who love Me and keep My commandments.” (Exodus 20:6)

The chasidah, a non-kosher bird listed in the Bible, has the same root letters as the word chesed. Rabbi Shlomo Yitzchaki (1040-1105) writes that this bird is called a chasidah because it performs chesed by sharing its food with others. But if this is true, asks Rabbi Menachem Mendel of Kotzk (1787-1859), why isn’t the righteous chasidah bird kosher? He answers that the chasidah only shares its food with its own kind, but not with birds of other species. This is not the type of chesed that the Bible commands us to exemplify.

Mankind must actively join God, whose “kindness is confirmed forever” (Psalms 89:3), in creating a world filled with chesed. Nobody in human history emulated God’s chesed more than Abraham, who was known for his hospitality towards all people. He and Sarah even designed entrances on all four sides of their tent in order to make it easier and more inviting for people to enter. Abraham’s passion for chesed was a central reason God chose Abraham to be his vehicle for bringing His word into the world. By teaching monotheism throughout the ancient world, Abraham performed the greatest possible act of chesed: bringing people closer to God.

The Israel Bible Team

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