Day 1 – Fueling Chesed’s Flight
SEFER AHAVAS CHESED – Part II Chapter I
“He has told you, man, what is good. What does Hashem require of you but to
do justice, to love kindness and to walk humbly with your G-d?” (Micah
The Chofetz Chaim teaches that the world is built upon the foundation of
chesed. All Jews are linked to each other by their ability to give and
their occasional need to take, a dynamic that weaves the Jewish people
together in a fabric of compassion. Chesed, in and of itself, is obviously
a concept of immeasurable intrinsic value.
Nevertheless, the words of the prophet Micah teach that chesed alone is not
the ultimate goal for a Jew. There is an added element – ahavas chesed –
the love of chesed, that takes this already powerful vehicle for serving
Hashem and fuels its launch into the Heavens.
The Chofetz Chaim explains the difference between performing chesed and
loving chesed. One can discern this difference for oneself by examining the
thoughts and attitudes that accompany an act of chesed. For instance, when
the charity collector knocks on the door, a person may experience a
momentary sinking feeling. He may think, “I haven’t got time for this,” or
“I haven’t got money to give away.” He knows he would much prefer the
collector bypass his house. The contribution he gives will be chesed, but
there is no ahavas chesed in this act.
Contrast this with another scenario: There is a family that advertises
itself in the local Jewish newspaper as the place for out-of-town charity
collectors to come for free room and board. This family considers it a
triumph when they hear that knock on the door. They feel just as
enthusiastic about the time and money they put into this venture as they
might feel about putting the same time and money into a family vacation. In
another example, a man commutes from a suburb each day to a major city an
hour and a half away. He constantly asks those with relatives or business
in that city, “Do you need a ride? Do you need anything delivered?” He
looks for his chesed “customers” as aggressively as he would for paying
The simplest way to identify the feeling of ahavas chesed is to think about
the way one feels expending time or effort on one’s own family. One wants
his son’s bar mitzvah suit to be the very best he can afford – a perfect
fit, of good quality and comfortable. One takes pride in seeing his son
wear the suit. The parent doesn’t feel that he has lost money in this
endeavor; he feels only a sense of gratitude and joy at having been able to
This is the attitude Hashem wants each Jew to develop toward chesed.
Performing this mitzvah with love and enthusiasm provides it with its
ultimate power, far beyond the already potent force of chesed performed out
of a sense of obligation.
Step by Step
Today, when an opportunity for chesed comes my way, I will try to think of
the recipient as a beloved member of my family.
Note: This can also be applied to non-Jews, because we, as Jews, are part of
the larger, human family as well.
Just as one shows kindness to his extended family, (albeit to a lesser
degree), one should show kindness to the extended family of mankind as well.