Monday, June 24, 2013

The Mitzvah of Chesed – An Overview by Rabbi Yair Hoffman

5tjt  Thankfully, we live in a community that is blessed with people who perform remarkable, remarkable acts of Chessed.  The efforts of Yeshiva students and others in the wake of Hurricane Sandy were remarkably inspiring.  Very recently, we were witness to local Yeshiva students from Yeshiva of Far Rockaway who danced vigorously to bring joy to a groom, local high school girls (TAG) working the kitchen and waitressing a wedding, local elementary boys (Siach Yitzchok) waitering for another Simcha.  Mothers of the high school girls joined their daughters in this Mitzvah as well, fathers happily provided transportation and other support.  Girls returning from seminary joined up too.  So impressive is the extent of the chessed in our community, that the daughter of a very famous Rosh Yeshiva in Brooklyn who came to one of these Smeichot remarked, “I have never seen this level of Chessed before. This should be a model for all of Klal Yisroel.”

The truth is that this is just a drop in the bucket of the extensive chessed that goes on around us.  In light of this remarkable activity, an overview of the general Mitzvah of Chessed is presented below.


The Gemorah (Sotah 14a) discusses the pasuk which says, “Acharei Hashem Elokecha taylechu – you shall walk after Hashem your G-d (Dvarim 13:5).”  The Gemorah poses a question.  It asks, “How is it possible to physically walk after the Divine Presence?”

The Gemorah responds that it means to follow after the Midos, the character traits, kavyachol, of Hashem. Just as He provides for the unclothed, so too must you provide clothing to them.  The Sefer Mitzvos Gedolos states that this verse is part of the related Pasuk of “v’halachta b’drachav – and you shall walk in his ways.”  In other words, the verse of Acharei Hashem Elokecha Taylechu is referencing the verse of v’halachta b’drachav.

The Gemorah in Shabbos (133b) discusses another entirely different pasuk, “Zeh Kaili V’anveihu..” The Gemorah in Shabbos understands it to mean that we must attempt to liken ourselves to Him.  Just as He is kind and merciful, so too must you be kind and merciful. [...]

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