Tuesday, January 3, 2017

What Is True Chesed?

Here is a big chiddush in the middah of chesed. It might sound simple but I assure you - most people I have tested this on don't "get it". 

Here it is: Chesed is NOT doing a favor for another human being. Chesed is NOT being kind to someone else. Chesed is NOT helping another person.

Then what IS chesed??

Chesed is .... doing for another person what the other person needs or wants!!! All to often, people are ready to do what THEY want for the other person but not what the other person wants. It is much EASIER to do what you want but that is not true chesed. 

A poor man comes to my door. He asks for a donation. I have money but I would rather spend it on myself. There are really nice looking cuff links that are on sale and I want to use my extra money for that [this is a person who has never worn cuff links in his life, but it is just an example]. So I tell the poor man that I can't give him money but I will lend him a book on how to start one's own business. "Start-ups For Dummies". He insists that he doesn't want a book. He wants cash [although he accepts checks]. I insist that he should take the book and start a business. He has no interest in starting a business. He is not so inclined. He just needs money to pay his rent. 

One might say that helping him start a business is a greater chesed than giving him money because this will stand him up on his own feet. But that is not what he wants and he is not receptive. He is not interested. I try to force it on him. That is not chesed. 

Or I say that he should come in and use my bathroom. He says that he doesn't need a bathroom. He needs money. I tell him that I want to do him a favor so why isn't he taking me up on my offer. 

Or I tell him names of rich people that he should ask. He KNOWS the names of rich people but from me he is asking for money.

Someone asks me to host two people for Shabbos. I say that I can't host them but they should take my advice - they won't enjoy Shabbos in my neighborhood. They wouldn't fit in. I was asked to host two people - not to offer my opinions.  

When one gives unsolicited advice what he is essentially saying is "I know what is better for you more than you do". THAT is offensive. If you want to give advice - first ask the person if he is interested in hearing your opinion. Most people aren't.


When someone asks you for something - try to do what he wants. 

I was once raising money for a certain Torah project and was talking to a man with hundreds of million dollars. He started giving me his learned opinions about Jewish  education. I am like "You don't have 18 lousy dollars to help my cause?"  He DID GIVE me - what HE wanted. He felt good that he could share his vast wisdom. But I didn't want his wisdom. I know who to go to for wisdom...

Sometimes giving advice or doing favors other than what one is asked for is a big mitzva. But make sure that the person will be satisfied. If not - the chesed is at best lacking or at worst is not only not a chesed but an insult.

This is a bigger topic וישמע חכם ויוסף לקח.