*Even if this week of the omer has passed, you can still learn about and work on this trait. Any time is a good time for spiritual growth.
“The world stands on three things:
on the Torah, on the service of Elohim, and upon acts of loving-kindness.”
(Pirkei Avot 2:1)
YAHUAH created the world in kindness, and each and every day, He sustains the world in abundant kindness, showering blessings upon all the inhabitants of the world. YAHUAH is abundant in loving-kindness and truth (Shem/Ex. 34:6). Loving-kindness is His nature.
We are made in the image of Elohim, and we are commanded to emulate His ways (Deb/Deut. 10:12). Therefore, loving-kindness is also in our nature, and we should live in kindness each and every day.
However, because of our physical bodies and the nature of the world around us, it’s not always so easy. We have to work at it. Some may find it easier than others, but all of us have to grow and develop in kindness to some extent.
We should be growing in kindness at all times, but the time of the Omer is a special time to focus on this type of growth. This is the time of year when YAHUAH gives special help to those striving to purify, refine, and improve themselves.
So, the first week of sefirat haomer, we focus on developing the trait of chesed, loving-kindness. Chesed is the first sefirah (attribute) we must develop because it has to be present before all the other attributes can be expressed in a positive way.
[Chesed is pronounced with a guttural "ch" as in Bach; accent is on the first syllable: CHE'-sed.]
Love in Action
Chesed is the foundation of all human interaction. It is based in ahavah, love. Ahavah connects us to others. It causes us to bond with others in a meaningful way, and thus, creates unity.
It’s impossible to show true chesed without ahavah. We’ll be nice people, but without ahavah, we won’t be true doers of chesed.
Chesed is also action. We must do something to benefit another. Good intentions, well wishes, positive thoughts, and prayers are all fine...but they’re not chesed. We have to become physically involved in doing something for another person.
True chesed acts.
Chesed is, in fact, proactive. We don’t wait for someone to ask for something. We see a need and do something about it. A true master of chesed doesn’t even wait for a need to arise. He goes out and seeks an opportunity to do chesed. He searches for a need and fulfills it.
No Cause, No Return
Just like Creation, chesed is an action without cause. YAHUAH didn’t create us because we did something to deserve it. It was solely His will and desire to be good to us.
Likewise, true chesed acts without a cause. It’s not a reaction to something. A person shouldn't have to do something to prompt us to show chesed towards him. We’re not paying someone back or returning a favor.
Chesed has pure motive. Our intention must be nothing more than to do good for another person. There can be no expectation of return or reward. We can’t expect the other person to give us anything in return or to pay us back in any way. We don’t keep our chesed in the back of our mind thinking they “owe us one” or hoping that someday they’ll return the favor.
True chesed has no cause and no return.
We can’t do chesed expecting honor or recognition or even gratitude for that matter.
Generous Sustaining Gifts
Chesed is generous giving. When we’re born into this world, we’re takers. All we do is receive. As we grow and mature, we move from being a taker to being a giver.
However, not everyone - in fact, a great many of us - never complete that transition despite becoming an adult. Therefore, it’s our responsibility, as adults, to work on ourselves and complete our growth and transition from being a taker to being a giver.
How we can give to the people we encounter each day? In every situation, and in every encounter, our thought should be, “What can I give to this person?”
Instead of thinking about what we can get out of the situation, how we can benefit, or what we need, we need to flip the script. Reverse our role from being the taker in the situation to being the giver. What can we give to benefit the other person.
Chesed is characterized by its overflowing nature. It has no boundaries. That’s why chesed can be defined as generous giving. We give beyond our normal boundaries. We decide we want to give something, and then we go a step further. We stretch our self across the boundaries set by selfishness and stinginess.
Chesed is giving in a manner that sustains another. YAHUAH sustains the world everyday in His abundant chesed.
We can give to another, and it will help. However, when we give in a sustaining way, then we’re going beyond boundaries and being generous. We’re giving in such a way that they will be able to continue in peace for some period of time. It may be a monetary or physical gift or a gift that sustains them emotionally or mentally.
True chesed is generous, sustaining giving.
When we think, "What do they really need?" rather than "What am I willing to give?" then we'll give a gift that truly satisfies and sustains.
To activate chesed, we must do chesed. We grow in this trait only by doing because chesed is action. The more we do chesed, the more we’ll grow in chesed.
Practice doing acts of chesed. Practice being proactive. Practice not expecting anything in return. Practice being generous.
A few ways to get started in building up chesed:
Be nice. Yes, chesed is much deeper than just being nice, but this is a start. Be nice. Be polite. Be pleasant. Be a person that others like being around. Smile. Make others feel welcome and included. Make them feel good.
Be forgiving. Of course, forgive when someone wrongs you. But also, just be forgiving. Bend a little. Give in. Let the other person be right and have the win. Give people the benefit of the doubt. Let things go. Forgive others for being the imperfect people we all are. Be patient.
These first two will help us develop the mindset of chesed so we will do chesed in ahavah (love). As we're developing our inner attitude toward others, we simultaneously work on doing as much chesed as we can.
A few suggestions:
Be helpful. Always ask, “How can I help?” If the other person denies your offer out of politeness, help anyway. Find a way to be useful. If people around you are busy, be busy helping. Don't wait for someone to ask. Jump in!
Volunteer. If you don't know exactly where you can help, find an organization that is already helping people. Look for one that is meaningful to you, like feeding the needy, assisting the elderly, mentoring young people, or helping people with special needs. Somehow get involved with people.
Personally connect with someone. Develop a relationship with someone. Actually care about them. Find out what their needs are. Let them know you care, and then, DO something. Help them on their terms, not yours. Be generous.
And of course…
GIVE. Simply give, give, and then...give some more. Give as much as you can and as often as you can. Try to give tzedaka (monetary gifts) everyday to get in the habit of giving, even if it's just putting something in a tzedaka box. Give your tithes. If we have trouble giving our tithes that's a good sign that we need to develop in chesed.
Give to everyone around you. Look for needs in people. Give them what they need, and be generous with it. If it’s not too much or too good for us to have, then it’s not too much or too good for them to have. Expect nothing in return.
These are just a few ways to start building up the trait of chesed. As we do chesed, the more we’ll grow in chesed. The more we grow in chesed, the more we’ll recognize opportunities to do more and even greater chesed. It should be a never-ending circle that takes us higher and higher.
Remember: give, generously give, and give in a sustaining way.
The more chesed we do on earth, the more the windows of Heaven will open up to bring chesed down into the world and into our individual life.
So, if you’re praying for YAHUAH to show kindness and favor to you, start doing chesed.