Kindness is a very important and crucial concept. However it is not necessarily that straightforward.
Shimon HaTzadik says the world stands on 3 Pillars. The study of Torah, acts of kindness and avodah/work.
Without these three the world will fall. Why dafka (specifically) are these 3 chosen?
Couldn't we have chosen say, 4 things or different ones?
Kindness is a very complex experience. One can do tremendous damage to a person with kindness when used improperly!
The obvious example. Letting a child stay up well past their bedtime. What a kindness this child is getting! Such a privilege! But is it? Not at all. The next day the child is grumpy and gets into fights with their siblings and is a wreck going to bed at the end of the day feeling worthless and miserable. Some kindness.
What about giving money to someone who you know for sure will buy drugs? Charity (Tzedaka) is kind, but in this case it is not.
Giving rebuke can be a form of kindness, yet it can also be deeply misunderstood or misconstrued leading to psychological damage and stress. A parent wants the best for their child, however if the parent is so busy climbing all over the kid to get everything right for their benifit, they actually can destroy the child in the process. Yet the motive, was kindness.
So how do we balance this? Kindness can go the other way as well. One can set off a chain reaction that circumvents the globe resulting in a global change! I love those YouTube videos of a chain reaction of kindness. I will attach at the bottom of this article one of my favorite ones.
I have mentioned before, as it is one of my favourites, one cannot see their own face. Except perhaps the tip of your nose. (Got you to try that didn't I?)
Our face is for others. The Talmud actually says that depriving someone of your smile is stealing from them. We owe it to others to be pleasant and friendly and kind.
One can say to themselves, 'well this is just my personal bad day, no one else is effected. I can just, not smile and keep my misery to myself'. BeHefech! The opposite! Your moood DIRECTLY affects others!
Frank doesn't smile at Betsy and she doesn't smile at Ralph and boom! The end of life on earth as we know it...sorry, got a bit carried away there, but you get the picture.
So, my favorite draw of the Torah is how it is all about balance and refinement. Let's examine what the Torah has to say on kindness.
Kindness is often thought of as being synonymous with niceness, but the connotation of chesed is much deeper than this. Chesed is properly described as an act that has no "cause."
The world was created on chesed. When one wants to understand a meaning in the Torah a hint is to go to the first time it is referenced.
Chesed is referenced in the creation of the world.
"The world is built with chesed." (Psalms 89:3)
God created the world not because of an owing and we exist here not because something is owed to us. When a righteous person dies, they don't get on GD's case if this world wasn't just the way they wanted. GD owes us nothing. The meaning of true chesed is not with a motivation behind it.
This is a great way on how to measure if what you do for another is pure and for the right reasons.
Yes! I am so glad you argued with me! Excellent point! How can ANYTHING not be motivated by an agenda? Including chesed!?
One of the highest forms of Tzedaka (charity) is giving anonymously, to seemingly not have anyone know who it was and therefore derive no benifit from the chesed. But as you pointed out, one DOES derive benefit! When giving Tzedaka, we hope to have GD reward us, we feel good, we feel better about our choices, we see the outcome of our giving....the list is endless and totally not without benefit!
This is the part when I throw up my hands, toss something across the room and go make a sandwich...how can this be resolved!? To difficult!
This is the spot for a quote.
Kushner is apt in his description.
"Do things for people, not because of who they are or what they do in return, but because of who you are"
This is the key here. The reason to do Chesed, IS for the sake of Chesed! Or as my 8 year old told her sister the other day, "because GD says so."
We can take two people who do the exact same chesed at the same time with entirely the same outcomes, but for different reasons.
Knowing why we are doing something, the intent we have behind the action is crucial.
True pure Chesed is only possible from our Creator. We can come pretty close.
A spiritual exercise if you so desire. Pay attention to kindness that you give and recieve. Just notice if you can feel the motivation behind it. Very quickly one can sense the energy and motive and the purest forms of Chesed in my opinion, have the longest lasting effects.
The world stands on three pillars.
Loving kindness, Avodah and the study of Torah.