Do you consider yourself a Baal Chesed? At the very least you have performed numerous acts of Chesed in your lifetime, or so you think….
There are two difficult criteria for true Chesed. Firstly Chesed is without any reason or justification whatsoever. If there is even the slightest logic why you should perform your good deed (even plain sympathy) then it is technically considered Tzedoka. Secondly, Chesed is without limits. True Chesed know no bounds and enough is never enough.
The two lionized Baalei Chesed of our forefathers were Avraham and Rivka and for good reason. Avraham, ninety nine years old and three days after having undergone a Bris Milah runs out of his tent (in the middle of a conversation with Hashem!) on an excruciatingly hot day to greet three idol worshipping Arabs. Not only does he bring them into his house and slaughter an expensive cow for them, he slaughters three of them just so each one can have the best piece of meat from the entire cow. Rivka was a three year old girl shlepping massive amounts of water for a slave of a rich man standing at the well with his camels laden with jewels. Couldn’t he fetch the water himself or pay someone to do it? Rivka didn’t ask that question she just kept filling up those buckets.
Helping someone who has less than you is called tzedoka. Helping someone who has more than you is called Chesed. Giving what you feel is fair is called tzedoka. Giving far more than is necessary is called Chesed. Giving when it makes you feel good is called tzedoka. Giving when it makes you feel stupid, used, and abused is called Chesed. Helping when the recipient and others know about it is called tzedoka. Helping when nobody knows and no one will credit you is called Chesed. Helping someone who you want to like you is tzedoka. Helping someone who you prefer to never cross their path as long as you live is called Chesed.
The Alter of Novardhok brings in the Madreigas HaAdam that if your friend does you a favor and you pay him pack in kind, exactly what he did for you, you have not paid him back. Why? Because what he did was a spontaneous act of kindness while you were simply paying a debt. In order to not only pay back the actual act that he did for you but also the kindness, you must “one up” him and do more than he did for you.
The Tomer Devora says that there is a special hall in Shamayim where Malachim receive all the Chesed that people do. In times when Am Yisroel does aveiros and after weighing all the factors Bais Din Shel Ma’ala rules that they may be completely destroyed, Hashem admits these malachim before him and Hashem pities us and saves us. Why? Because Hashem is “Chofetz Chesed”. Chesed has a special place in Hashem’s heart, kviyochol, that transcends all logic and fairness. Now we know why. It is not as simple as holding the elevator door for an old lady. Sure we all know “Tzedoka Tatzil MiMaves”. Chesed is far greater.
This week we have seven days to break our current mindset of what good deeds satisfy our desire to be good people. It is a week to transform ourselves from occasional givers of tzedoka to true Baalei Chesed.