Day 1, April 16: The Hesed In Hesed

Omer Day 1: The Hesed In Hesed - April 16 - Cultivating pure, expansive loving kindness.blogEntryTopper
Hesed means “the way that you act toward someone you love.” So for the first day of the counting of the Omer, we're looking at the purest conceivable love that we can muster within ourselves.

In the midrash, the sages tell us that behaving with kindness is one of the most important ways of emulating God, or, if you will, of striving toward godliness. (This is why providing a proper burial is such a pure form of lovingkindness, because the person can never thank us for it.) God “clothes the naked” in helping Adam and Eve make clothing for themselves. God “buried the dead” in burying Moses at the end of the Torah. Perhaps most profoundly, the entire creation of the cosmos is seen as being an act of love on the part of the Creator. Rabbi Jacob Haber writes that “Hesed is the desire for life, the life force of the universe, which is the ultimate purpose of creation. Hesed makes no distinction between species. Hesed is simply life, without differentiation.”

Hesed is also a kind of love that goes beyond what the object of the love “deserves.” In this respect, the patriarch Abraham is seen as exemplary of Hesed, because he constantly manifests love and concern for others, even the three “strangers” who come to visit him, even the people of Sodom and Gomorrah who are deemed to be so deeply wicked.

The kind of Hesed we are thinking about on this first day of the counting of the Omer is so pure that it expects no reward.

Over the next 24 hours, try thinking about your own capacity for kindness. Can you make a list of the most selflessly loving acts you have performed in your life? How did doing these things make you feel? What was the result of these actions?

You might also try to recognize your connection through the Hesed that animates all creation to those who are suffering. Try rolling down your car window on April 16 and giving some tzedakah to a beggar on a street corner or the exit ramp to the highway. Make eye contact with that person. Be aware as you do so that you and this person share a common humanity. What is that like? Or try, through tzedakah, to express love and concern, Hesed, for someone suffering on the other side of the globe.

And in the spirit of Passover, specifically, how might consciously and deliberately cultivating a more openhearted, loving nature help you to find liberation from things that hold you captive in your own life?

I look forward to your reflections!

Rabbi Steve Folberg
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