The Middah of Lovingkindness, Humanity – חסד.
There was one Hasid (a person who strives for lovingkindness in all of his/her actions) in all of Gemorah. The entire town was filled with the worst of the worst with this one exception. Every day, this man would go through the town and tell the evil townspeople to put aside their wickedness and every day they laughed at him. For years this went on. The townspeople did all manner of wickedness – that people are surely capable of – and every day, the lonely Hasid went through the town telling people to change their ways.
One day, in the town square, where some act of depraved debauchery was going on, one of the townsmen said to the Hasid, “Old man, every day you tell us to stop, and every day we laugh at you and do what we do.” He asked, “Why do you keep up this charade?”
The Hasid responded, “At first I told you to stop so that you would change your ways, I have kept on in my mission so that you would not change me.”
“May he be enthroned before God for ever! Appoint Hesed (lovingkindness) and truth, that they may preserve him”. -Psalms 61:8
Life is a continuous growing and learning experience. What we learn from books, from other people, from events we witness, learn about, or events we part can bring us attributes of the Truth. Throughout our lives we accumulate bits and bits of the truth, and from these bits of knowledge we fashion a worldview. But ‘the truth’ does not sustain us. We need to cultivate Hesed (lovingkindness) too.
How do we cultivate Hesed?
The Tomer Devorah (Spain, mid 15th century) teaches that “if one encounters another person who acts unkindly, look for the good thing that person does and focus on that aspect.” By finding and focusing on the good of other people, when they fully deserve it and even when they deserve it less, we cultivate lovingkindness within ourselves.
מחשבה/Machshava (Thoughts): We can cultivate more Hesed in our life through meditation. Take some time every day to sit and wish a few people in your life well.
As you bring each person to mind, you can use phrases such as:
May you be safe and protected.
May you be healthy and strong.
May you be happy.
May you be peaceful and at ease.
You can do this with people you are close to or not so close to. Take a moment to wish yourself well also. You deserve it.
מעשה/Ma’aseh (Action): At least once each day follow the suggestion of the popular bumper-sticker: Practice random acts of kindness. Notice how it feels when you do it, and afterwards!