A Portion of Kindness
A Portion of Kindness

by Rosally Saltsman

God created the world based on chesed. He created it to give us a forum in which we could earn our reward in the next world. So not only is chesed one of the pillars of the world, it is its foundation. We are meant to use this tool, this gift of our world, to serve Hashem by serving others. The world is full of pleasures for every preference; snow for skiers, hot weather for swimmers, food for every palate, natural wonders to marvel at. Hashem gives us the best working environment in which to do our jobs. But if we don’t use this world to do chesed, we are guilty of gezel because we are enjoying the pleasures of this world without fulfilling the condition that we use them to bring pleasure to others.

In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth. (Bereishis 1:1)

Hashem’s loftiness lies in the fact that although He has created heaven and earth and rules over the entire universe, He understands the individual needs of all His creations and treats them with kindness. (Tightrope by Leah Fried)

God saw that the light was good, and God separated between the light and the darkness. (Bereishis 1:4)

Rabbi Eliezer says that Ayin Tovah is the best quality to have (Pirkei Avos 2:13). Ayin Tovah means a discerning eye but it also can mean an eye for good. Someone who sees the good in people and can separate the good from the bad, the light from the darkness, not only contributes to a more positive world, but does tremendous chesed for the people they do this for. We are all made up of light and darkness. To see the good in ourselves and in others is more than looking on the bright side; it reinforces our good traits and makes us better people. There are very few acts of chesed that have as many upshots as this.

God blessed them saying, “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the waters in the seas; but the fowl shall increase on the earth.” (Bereishis 1:22)

God said, “Let the earth bring forth living creatures, each according to its kind: animal and creeping thing and beast of the land each according to its kind.“ And it was so. God made the beast of the earth according to its kind and the animal according to its kind and every creeping being of the ground according to its kind. And God saw that it was good. (Bereishis 1:24-25)

Why is the phrase “according to its kind” repeated so many times? The singular form implies that God endowed each of the species with whatever senses and faculties it required to thrive (Sforno) and endowed each with its own peculiar nature and instincts (Minchah Belulah). Evolutionists argue that the fact that animals are so different in different parts of the world attests to the process of evolution. Emus are different from ostriches because the environmental conditions are different in Australia than in Africa. Llamas are different from camels because environmental conditions are different in South America than in Africa or Asia and the platypus could only have ‘evolved’ in Australia.

Personally, I think the platypus is ample proof of divine creation, because only God could think of something that biologically complex and confusing. What all this species variation attests to, in fact, is God’s abundant kindness. He gave every animal the exact climactic and geographic locale that it needs to survive and thrive. We all know what happens to many animals when they are removed from their natural habitats and how zoos go to great expense and inconvenience to ‘recreate’ each animal’s natural surroundings. God did this a priori and any alterations to the environment that have led to ecological imbalances have caused the destruction of many species. What do we learn from this?

On a global level, we learn that if we want to do the world a great chesed, we have to protect and preserve what’s left of our natural environment. The physical world God created was perfect. He created it for us and any damage to the environment has repercussions on us. So if we want to help future generations, we need to take responsibility for our global village. There is much information about how to achieve this and everyone needs to be doing their part to preserve and best utilize our natural resources.

On an interpersonal level, people thrive in their natural environments and when we buy someone a gift, invite them over for dinner or help them pick an apartment, a job or a spouse, we have to keep in mind what is best for their individual nature and condition and not what would make us happy were we in the same position. Anyone who invites me over for Shabbos stocks up on Coca Cola because I can’t get through Shabbos without it. If you have kids over, you have to let them make a mess and if you have finicky guests, you have to clean. Vegetarians need vegetarian food and people who are cold need heating in winter. Keeping the needs of each “species” of your friends in mind is a great chesed and will help ensure that you have long lasting friendships. Above all it is Ahavas Yisrael. And God will see that it is good.

Let us make Man in our image, after our likeness. (Bereishis 1:26)

God made man in His image, that is, with His attributes and then gave him the world to rule over. One of the attributes of God that we are meant to emulate is generosity. God made an entire world and then gave it to man. We must understand that everything we have is a gift from God. Nothing intrinsically belongs to us. Therefore, we are meant to share the gifts we have with others. Niggardliness is antithetical to Godly behavior and so it should be repulsive to us. We are simply conduits through which God’s goodness and beneficence flows therefore we should delight in being conductors of good whenever possible.

Why did God make man last? Sanhedrin 38A states that it is because He wanted to bring man into a perfect world. It would have been akin to inviting someone to a banquet in a palace under construction if He had created Adam before the world was finished.

When we invite people to a function, the time they are invited for should coincide with when we are ready to receive them. Appearing at a wedding when the invitation tells us to only to find the wedding party still taking pictures and unavailable to greet us is uncomfortable. Likewise, arriving at someone’s home to find them still in the early stages of preparation. Whenever possible, we should make ourselves available to our guests as soon as they arrive and make sure that everything is ready for them.

These are the products of the heaven and the earth when they were created on the day that Hashem God made earth and heaven. (Bereishis 2:4)

Behibaram – The letters of this word can be arranged to spell BeAvraham, meaning that God created the world for the sake of Avraham (Midrash), because he was the epitome of kindness, one of the pillars of the world (Zohar). This suggests further that Avraham was the one who achieved God’s purpose for the universe, because until he came on the scene, humanity consistently failed to live up to its mission. That is why Avraham earned the right to be the progenitor of Israel, the nation that was chosen by God to receive the Torah (Zohar).” The reason the Amidah prayer says “Magen Avraham” is because of the three pillars, chesed is most important. (Kotzker Rebbe, Iturei Torah)

But of the tree of knowledge of Good and Bad, you must not eat thereof. (Bereishis 2:17)

Adam had only one mitzvah to keep in the Garden of Eden. Had he kept it, the world would have achieved its tikkun and he would have merited eternal life. But we know that mitzvos are divided into two types, between man and God and between man and man. This example appears to fall only into the first category. But man is likened to a tree (Devarim 20:19; Shoftim 20:19 Ibn Ezra, Maharal on the verse). Also, one of the mitzvos in Ki Tavoh is not destroying the trees when the nation conquers a city. Perhaps inherent in this there is the concept of chesed as well. If a tree is likened to a man, then taking from this particular tree that God had instructed him not to take from is committing the sin of gezel, of taking from his fellow man. After all, there was no one else in the Garden to steal from, no one else to harm. So perhaps God used the tree to signify mankind and test Adam to see if he could withstand the temptation. Inasmuch as the evil inclination entered Adam only after he had eaten from the tree - in other words the feelings of lust, jealousy and honor seeking (Malbim),--  we can assume that Adam didn’t have those feelings before and had there been other people around, he would not have been motivated by these evil impulses to hurt them. Since the desire didn’t come from within him, God presented the prohibition as a temptation to defy His will. A temptation which Adam couldn’t resist.

It is not good that man be alone. (Bereishis 2:18)

There are many people who suffer from loneliness in the world. There are people who, for various reasons, are bereft of friends and family and there are people who feel alone because they live surrounded by those they can’t connect with or who don’t understand them. Relieving people of their loneliness is a great chesed. One of the ways we can do this is by introducing them to others with whom we feel they would get along. Just like God brought Chava to Adam, we can bring people to each other and help them connect. This is especially relevant in the area of shidduchim.

Often a small act can help relieve someone’s sense of isolation. The following story illustrates this point and shows just how far reaching a small act of friendship can be.

David (not his real name), a young rabbinical student, once received a wedding invitation accompanied by a handwritten note from the bridegroom expressing his strong wish and sincere hope that David attend his wedding. While he recognized the name, David did not remember having any special relationship with the groom. At the wedding, when an opportune moment presented itself, David approached him and asked how he had come to merit receiving a personalized, handwritten note with his invitation.

“Because of you, I remained in yeshivah!” The bridegroom explained. “When I first entered the yeshivah I had no friends at all and I was very lonely. After I had spent a few weeks there, I decided to return home. On the last Shabbos before I was to leave, as we were waiting in line to greet the head of the yeshivah with the traditional Shabbos greeting, I felt someone touching my jacket. I turned around and saw you – smiling at me in a friendly way – adjusting my collar, which had not been lying flat as it should. It was at that moment that I began to feel I belonged, and I made up my mind there and then to stay in yeshivah – because of you!’
(Chinuch in Turbulent Times by Rabbi Dov Brezak. Mesorah Publications, Artscroll p. 26)

And Hashem God made for Adam and his wife garments of skin and He clothed them. (Bereishis 3:21)

The Torah uses the same word, Kotnot for the garments God made Adam and Chava as it does for the garment, Kutonet, that Yaacov made for Yossef. The garment that Yaakov made was symbolic of the special love he felt for Yossef. The garments Hashem made for Adam and Chava are indicative of the special love Hashem felt for them. Rav Bachya comments that Hashem himself clothed them to show that He still loved them despite their sin. For a chag, a husband is told to supply his wife with new clothes. There is definitely a connection between clothing and love. Providing clothes for the needy is chesed. It is also a chance to demonstrate Ahavas Yisrael. The more personally one is involved with picking out, purchasing and giving clothes to the needy, the bigger the chesed. We can extend this to our own families as well and consider buying clothes for our spouses and children as a way of showing them that we love them and want to protect them since one of the functions of clothing is protection.

It is not good that man be alone; I will make him a helper against him. (Bereishis 2:18)

Sometimes, the best help we can give a person is to oppose him. A good wife tells her husband when she feels what he’s doing is wrong. God told Avraham to listen to Sarah when she told him to send Hagar and Yishmael away. When people are doing something which is obviously destructive and we’re certain is not in their best interests it is a chesed to point this out to them. Many people don’t like to make waves, but often these very waves can save someone from drowning.

The voice of your brother’s blood cries out to Me from the ground! (Bereishis 4:10)

The word blood is in the plural here, intimating that Cayin also killed all of Hevel’s descendents. When we harm one person, we harm everyone else who comes after him. But the converse is true as well. If we help someone, if we save his life or even do a chesed for him, we can be saving the lives or improving the circumstances of all his future descendents.

[Homepage / We appreciate your donation - please click here ]
All rights reserved (c) Avraham Tzvi Schwartz

var wc_version=1;