In 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.
- 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