Midot Hayom Day 6: Yesod in Chesed
Wherever there was a lonely widow whom no one wanted to marry, [Job] would go and lend his name to her [by declaring himself her relative or by speaking to her about marriage]. After that, men would come [asking to marry her] (Bava Basra 16a).
Job said, “When the evil inclination tried to mislead me and prevent me from going to comfort mourners by telling me that I was a great man, I would not heed it” (Pesikta Rabbati 33:11)
Job was aware of the prestige associated with his name. He understood that h a widow who was a “relative,” would benefit from his reputation. He knew that he was perceived as a great man, and yet, although he would use his “greatness” for Chesed, he did not fool himself into believing that he was too great to visit a mourner.
We often feel great about the Chesed we do. Job used that feeling to help others, careful not to fall into the trap of believing in that greatness. He was constantly rooted in the foundations of Chesed for what it was. His actions were never about himself.
The first step of Yesod in Chesed is to make an effort that our Chesed is never about ourselves, but about the Chesed itself.
I once heard a woman say, “I need to do a Mitzvah. I think I’ll call Mrs X and offer to drive her to her chemotherapy appointment.” I recall thinking that I never wanted to be the victim of this person’s Chesed. It was about her and not about the act of Chesed. Her actions lacked Yesod in Chesed.
How did Job maintain his perspective, his Yesod in Chesed? We can find a clue in the following Midrash about Abraham: “If Abraham had not been jealous of those serving God, he would not have acquired heaven and earth. When was he jealous? He asked Malchizedek [Shem], “how (i.e., in what merit) did you go out to the ark?” Malchizedek replied, “In the merit of the charity that we did there.” “What charity,” asked Abraham, “ was there for you to do in the ark? Were there poor people there? Only Noah and his sons were there, so for whom did you do charity?” “ For the animals and the birds,” answered Malchizedek. “We did not sleep; instead we served one after another all night.” Thereupon Abraham said, “Had they not done charity for the animals and birds, they would not have left the ark. Only because they did charity did they go out. If I do it with people, how much more so!” At that time he planted an eishel in Beer-sheba. Eishel is an acronym of achilah, shesiah, levayah, “eating, drinking, and escorting” (Shocher Tov 37:1).
Abraham did not perform acts of Chesed in order to feel good about himself. He understood that Chesed is valuable as the key to nurturing life, all the life around us. Chesed is not a “good deed.” It is the way we maintain life. We nourish our own lives when we do Chesed even for animals and birds.
Practice nurturing your own life as Chesed; eating, exercising, praying and learning.
Catch yourself if you start taking pride in your Chesed.
Appreciate each act of Chesed as a way of nourishing all life, including your own.