Thursday, November 13, 2014

Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks: The Kindness of Strangers

This is another glorious essay from Rabbi Sacks on this week's Torah portion, Chayei Sarah-the life of Sarah the Matriarch. 

It has one of the best explanations of the Jewish concept of "chessed" that I've ever read.

Chessed is one of those Hebrew words for a Jewish concept that really has no literal translation into English, but 'loving kindness' certainly does come very close.

This explanation, I thought, was magnificent:

Hessed, said the sages, is in some respects higher even than tzedakah:

(Note, "tzedakah" is often translated, wrongly, into English as "charity". However the concept of Tzedakah is rooted in TZ/D/K the root for justice in Hebrew, unlike the word "charity" from the Latin and before then, the Greek. They have very different theological connotations, which I think Rabbi Sacks highlights quite clearly in his essay.)

Thus from Rabbi Sacks:
"Our masters taught: loving-kindness [hessed] is greater than charity [tzedakah] in three ways."

"Charity is done with one’s money, while loving-kindness may be done with one’s money or with one’s person. Charity is done only to the poor, while loving-kindness may be given both to the poor and to the rich. Charity is given only to the living, while loving-kindness may be shown to the living and the dead."