Friday, November 23, 2018

אהבת חסד Loving Kindness

Rav Eliyahu Dessler elucidates something counter-intuitive in the nature of human relationships. Normally we think love happens when you find common ground with someone and identify with them. Only after that you love them and automatically give to them. But it's actually just the opposite. Love which is stable happens through giving - meaning, when you give to someone, you identify with them because of the investment you made in them, and then you love them in a stable way. This concept, says Rav Dessler, is expressed in the word אהבה which can be broken down in Aramaic to א - meaning "I", and הב, meaning "give". 

But we learn from the Chafetz Chaim that חסד, or giving, is about more than being an investor. He points out that the Torah's requirement of חסד is different than other Mitzvos. While we don't find it saying anywhere that you have to love tefillin or love matzah, when it comes to חסד the prophet Michah says Hashem requests אהבת חסד, to love giving.

It's not enough to just to expand your self-love to include other people by investing in them and caring about your investments. That is still selfishness, essentially, and it may not produce the effect Rav Dessler wants. Part and parcel of genuine giving is אהבת חסד, loving חסד and being happy about the fact that love works this way. The human need to identify and connect with others, which must be fulfilled by becoming other focused and giving, reveals that giving and goodness are built into the foundations of the world - עולם חסד יבנה. It shows that the world Hashem created is fundamentally good. That's why a real giver doesn't just love the feeling of expansiveness he gets from seeing all the people he has contributed to, rather he loves to see anyone give to anyone because it reveals this beautiful secret about the world.

It's built into every aspect of life, psychologically, economically, etc. that it is not good for Man to be alone לא טוב היות האדם לבדו. But once Man rises above living only for himself, it not only gets rid of the לא טוב, the "not good" of being alone and having unfulfilled needs. It becomes "And God saw all that He had made, and behold it was very good" "וירא אלהים את כל אשר עשה והנה טוב מאוד"

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