Hesed = Kindness

Kindness-ChesedIn traditional Musar literature (ethical literature), Hesed is one of the primary virtues. The tannaic rabbi Simon the Just taught:
“The world rests upon three things: Torah, service to God, and bestowing kindness” (Pirkei Avot 1:2).
Hesed is here the core ethical virtue.

A statement by Rabbi Simlai in the Talmud claims that:
“The Torah begins with Hesed and ends with Hesed.”
This may be understood to mean that “the entire Torah is characterized by Hesed, i.e. it sets forth a vision of the ideal life whose goals are behavior characterized by mercy and compassion.
” Alternatively, it may allude to the idea that the giving of the Torah itself is the quintessential act of Hesed.

In Moses Cordovero’s kabbalistic treatise Tomer Devorah, the following are actions undertaken in imitation of the qualities of Hesed:

  • love God so completely that one will never forsake His service for any reason
  • provide a child with all the necessities of his sustenance
  • circumcise a child
  • visiting and healing the sick
  • giving charity to the poor
  • offering hospitality to strangers
  • attending to the dead
  • bringing a bride to the chuppah marriage ceremony
  • making peace between a man and his fellow
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