Chesed How to build this world with love

Mr. Puri is caught off-guard by a visit from his local police. He walks to his gate feeling alarmed and says, "I am Karan Puri, I live alone and I am a senior citizen.”

And what happens next leaves him amazed.

While maintaining distancing, the police hand him a birthday cake and hat and start singing to him. Mr. Puri can’t believe his eyes and joins them in song.

This small act of kindness and grace made his day and amidst loss and grief, this simple act united and uplifted the givers, the receiver and even the 50,000 viewers who watched this video.

In Jewish tradition, acts that go above and beyond our everyday behavior are called acts of chesed.

Tradition teaches that chesed is one of the three pillars that is said to hold up the world, and that the Torah- our foundational text - begins and ends with acts of chesed.

In 1535, when Miles Coverdale was working on the first ever translation of the Hebrew Bible into English, he struggled to find a word which conveyed the meaning of ‘chesed’.

Realizing the distinctive nature of this concept, he coined a new term, ‘loving-kindness’.

How does adding love elevate an act of kindness?

What is so powerful about these acts and why does the world’s existence depend upon them?

And if they are so simple to enact, then why do we repeatedly fall short of doing so?

In this Value Spark, we will explore the value of chesed through a series of activities and try to understand why something so simple and readily available can also be elusive.

So, how do we discern an act of chesed?

What is the difference between an act of chesed (that goes above and beyond) and an act of basic human decency? Being able to distinguish between these acts strengthens the uniqueness of this concept.

Activity | 20 minutes

Try to discern the difference by yourself!

Once you figured it out, take it one step further and turn a mensch scenario into your own chesed one.

Chesed isn’t just about giving, but it is about giving with a spirit of generosity and love while not necessarily expecting anything in return.

Jewish tradition is filled with profiles of people who embody chesed and who can inspire us to do more ourselves.

Each person expresses chesed in a different way.

Abraham invites in the stranger; Ruth follows her mother-in-law to an unfamiliar land; Boaz goes above and beyond.

Learning | 20 Minutes

What do they all have in common?

The last page is blank. Who do you want to add to this book? Where have you experienced chesed and by whom? Fill it out for yourself.

Jack Kerouac once wrote in a letter to his first wife and lifelong friend, “Practice kindness all day to everybody and you will realize you’re already in heaven now.”

But yet, somehow it is hard to prioritize acts of chesed. In a social experiment conducted by Soul Pancake, they invited 5 people to perform five acts of loving-kindness in one day to test how their happiness increases. The acts start towards strangers and move towards people they know.

Watch the video below to see what happens when you actually take the time to perform daily acts of chesed.

Challenge | 20 minutes

Let’s pick up where they left off.

Chesed is about leaping towards our highest moral potential and being open to tripping-up or stumbling along the way.

Sometimes there is a fear in leaping towards an act of chesed.

What if we give too much? What if we get rejected? What if we did it for the reward? But ultimately, to be the best person we can be, is to pursue those acts regardless. It is to push through the discomfort and to open ourselves up to being in deep and meaningful relationships with others, through acts of loving-kindness.

May we all learn to give with openness and generosity.

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Created with images by Angèle Kamp - "untitled image" • United Nations COVID-19 Response - "Hey! I miss you. Image created by Daniel Barreto. Submitted for United Nations Global Call Out To Creatives - help stop the spread of COVID-19."