Kallah XV: Kindness on the Way to Holiness
I love the story told by Rabbi Abraham Yachnes which clarifies the kind of action needed to qualify as chesed / kindness. He said, “If you are walking down the street and someone is walking beside you carrying a large box, and you offer to help the person carry the box, that’s not chesed / kindness. Making that offer is just a sign that you are not a rasha [evil]. What counts as chesed is when you are walking the opposite way and you turn around to help carry that load in the direction they are going. That’s chesed.”
Chesed is selfless: we expect nothing in return. We have no desire for recognition or honor for what we do. Even a smile, a hello or looking in someone’s eyes can brighten their day. Some kinds of chesed feel natural for me, while some are challenging.
When driving recently, I saw a woman standing at the corner looking totally lost. I couldn’t do anything but stop, ask if she needed help, and then drive her to her destination. Yet extending the same level of kindness is difficult for me when I feel that a family member has made a poor life choice. I admire a close friend for her ability to be direct in a kind way with her children about her expectations when they haven’t lived up to them. It is clear they feel her kindness and love even in tense moments. I am grateful for having such a friend who demonstrates how it can be done.
Opportunities for chesed are all around us. It doesn’t require grandiose gestures to be kind. We just need to cultivate mindfulness to look for them. We might not solve a huge problem with our kindness, but the momentum builds. In each person is an entire world. If our chesed can bring relief and well-being to just one person, we have already started healing the world. When our acts of kindness open our heart even wider, the possibilities are endless.
Like me, if you have attended the annual Mussar Kallah in the past, knowing that we will be meeting again in just four months may likely bring a smile to our lips. We remember all the opportunities for chesed as we meet old friends with a big hug and smile and as we get to connect with new people on the Mussar path. The Kallah also affords us multiple volunteer opportunities for engaging in acts of chesed throughout our three days together—during services, at meal times, and when gathering together.
The theme of this year’s Kallah is The Holiness of Engagement. Let’s begin our practice by seeking out acts of chesed that will make our engagement in the world more holy. Take the first step by registering for the Kallah now. You will be doing a chesed not just for yourself but for all the other souls who will be joining us there with the goal of bringing holiness to the world.
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