Pure chesed

This period of Omer-counting for the Jews finds me reflecting back on my experiences with my friends and acquaintances. I’m not sure about others but I cannot say that I have encountered many instances of pure chesed (Hebrew for kindness), nor can I say that I have engaged much in it myself (the kindness that my family bestows on me however is an exception). Chesed that is non-patronizing, without imposing one’s own set of experiences together with its prejudices and biases on the other. Acts done totally because the recipient is in need of the kind act, and not because the giver needs to assuage feelings of guilt. Considerations purely for the benefit of the recipient, without hidden agendas of anticipated reciprocation or some kind of beneficial return. How many are the instances where we find people giving gifts that they themselves like to others? How many are the instances where we find ourselves imposing our own experiences on others when giving advice? How many yet are those where we help others when in the back of our minds we only want to be liked? Not to mention when one does it solely to ram certain religious dogmas down the throats of the recipients, even more cunningly so during the recipients’ weakest moments. Pure chesed is truly elusive, but one of the blessings I count everyday is that I have actually encountered this treasure in my rare interactions with religious Jews. They do not seek converts. There’s only a certain warmth and sincerity radiating from them that is so disarming, and I believe this must have touched the desert wanderers who stopped by their father Avraham’s tent thousands of years ago. I have much to work on myself. I wish I could be like them.

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~ by musafiremes on April 28, 2007.

One Response to “Pure chesed”

  1. I find this commentary by R’Zev Leff on Parshas Vayeira addresses very nicely the concept of objectivity yet non-patronizing empathy in the context of helping and advising others:
    The Value of a Friend’s Advice

    An excerpt of the commentary:
    “For freeing himself from his own subjective perspective, Mamre was rewarded by G-d’s appearing in his portion. Objectivity is the precondition for recognition of the truth, i.e. the recognition of G-d Himself.”

    Mamre emphatically projected himself into Avraham’s situation, as requested by Avraham himself (thus a non-patronizing act), but after positioning himself within Avraham’s framework, he was still able to maintain an objective perspective of things.

    This ability is absolutely non-trivial!

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