Chesed is the fourth of the ten sefirot, and the first of the emotive attributes within Creation. Chesed is the first day of Creation. On it was created the light of lovingkindness for all. What You Need to Know about Kabbalah Rabbi Yitzchak Ginsburgh page 88 The first day is called in the Torah the day of one (yom echad) Bereishit (Genesis) 1.5 The Divine consciousness of this day is that all of Creation is one as embraced, in love, by the Oneness of the Creator (echad, one = 13 = ahavah, love). Chesed is associated in the soul with the desire to embrace all of Creation and bestow upon it goodness. As the expansive force which impels the soul to connect with outer reality, chesed inspires, and thus implicitly accompanies, all the other expressions of emotive force which succeed it in the soul.
לָדַעַת חָכְמָה וּמוּסָר לְהָבִין אִמְרֵי בִינָה
To know (da’at) wisdom (chochmah) and instruction (mussar)
to perceive the words of understanding (binah) Mishlei (Proverbs) 1.2
לָקַחַת מוּסַר הַשְׂכֵּל צֶדֶק וּמִשְׁפָּט וּמֵשָׁרִים
To receive the instruction (mussar) of wisdom, justice, and judgment, and equity Mishlei (Proverbs) 1.3
Mussar seems to require the breaking of one’s ego. The Rebbe says that within every Jew there lies hidden a great treasury of refined character traits. We must search for these refined traits. The sefirot will be our guide to study where we need to go to attain the goal in refining our traits. Note: Most employers require that those who work for them formulate goals for each year. This is so that not only does the employee advance their skills but also the business reaps the benefits of a better work force. So if we know what our goals are in the study of mussar then we will have a way to discern if we are advancing toward them.
Rav Yisrael Salanter taught that the Torah’s ethical teachings needed to be activated by accessing one’s emotions. Studying alone would not accomplish this. He said, It is necessary for Mussar to be studied in a passionate manner that will stir the soul; Ohr Yisrael Rav Yisrael Salanter Feldheim page 125
The Torah Says, you shall love your neighbor as yourself; I am the Lord Vayikra (Leviticus) 19.18 This is not meant to be understood intellectually but must be integrated into the heart. When the Torah’s Words become alive to us then we have attained mussar’s goal.
Yalchut (Hosea 524) quotes G-d: The acts of benevolence that you do for each other are dearer to me than all the thousand sacrifices which King Soloman brought to me. Pikei Avot Treasure Artscroll page 15
To perform an act of kindness, without personal gain, is the highest degree of pure and enduring human worth. Kind deeds between one person and another induce a corresponding flow of kindness from G-d that sustains the world. Maharal of Prague Pirkei Avos Artscroll page 17
כִּי אָמַרְתִּי עוֹלָם חֶסֶד יִבָּנֶה שָׁמַיִם תָּכִן אֱמוּנָתְךָ בָהֶם
For I have said, the world is built on kindness (Chesed); You Establish Your Faithfulness in them. Tehillim (Psalms) 89.3
So how do we obtain chesed?
Just as Torah is transcendent, beyond the emanations whereby G-d’s Creative Power is realized in the form of various garments or disguised, so man has within himself the capacity for self- transcendence, for elevating himself spiritually beyond his apparent existential limitations. This self-transcendence is affected by the study of Torah. Torah Lishmah Torah For Torah’s Sake Rabbi Hayyim of Volozhin page 114
The whole purpose of Torah and Mitzvot is to qualify a person so that he or she will be fitting to receive all the Good inherent in the Intention of Creation which is to do good to G-d’s creatures. Torah thus requires the purification of the will to receive for oneself alone in order that a person should be fit to receive this Divine Good. In the Shadow of the Ladder Rabbi Yehudah Lev Ashlag Page 105
So to sum it all up, studying Torah and performing Mitzvot are the means of acquiring affinity of form, to become in the Likeness and Image of G-d.
Chesed grows in those who do deeds of Chesed. At the same time Chesed needs to be balanced with Gevurah. Chesed is G-d Giving Himself unrestrictedly. If He were to do that then Chesed would totally overwhelm creation. So G-d Balances His Chesed with Gevurah (restraint). We need to find this balance in our lives.
אֱלֹהַי נְשָׁמָה שֶׁנָּתַתָּ בִּי טְהוֹרָה הִיא
My G-d, the soul You Placed within me is pure.
The Shottenstein Edition Siddur for Weekdays With An Interlinear Translation (Mesorah Publications, Ltd., Brooklyn, N.Y. first edition 2002) p 27
אַתָּה בְרָאתָהּ אַתָּה יְצַרְתָּהּ אַתָּה נְפַחְתָּהּ בִּי וְאַתָּה מְשַׁמְּרָהּ בְּקִרְבִּי
You Created it, You Formed it, You Breathed it into me. And You Preserve it within me
We received a pure soul that has been tainted by ours and others actions that were not Torah based. We need to return to Torah.
The word teshuvah (to return) (תשובה) contains
the word Shabbot followed by two Letters, vov hei (שבת ו’-ה‘).
G‑d’s name Havayah (י-ה-ו-ה) represents the range of our spiritual potentials: the Yud is identified with Chochmah (Wisdom), the first Hei, with Binah (Understanding), the Vov, with the six emotional attributes,
and the final Hei with Malchut (the place where we live).
Of the higher levels, Yud Hei, it can be said,
What is hidden is for G‑d, our L‑rd.
The letters Vov Hei, however, represent lower levels,
what is revealed (to us) – the Torah.
Devarim (Deuteronomy) 29.28
What G-d Has Revealed of Himself is within The Torah.
The Torah IS the Tree of Life.
Etz Chaim – The Tree of Life
If we know our life’s mission we will have inner peace. Our lives will have purpose, direction and meaning. We must accept that everyone has a unique mission for their lives. We cannot share their mission and no one can share ours. However, all of us are required to acquire traits that will improve the world. Chesed is just one of these.
Blessings and Peace
Rebbetzin Revi Belk