Torah.org Home Subscribe Services Support Us
 
Print Version

Email this article to a friend

Parshas Acharei Mos - Kedoshim

Giving for a Good Cause

Rabbi Pinchas Avruch

Chapter 18 of Vayikra/Leviticus contains a lengthy series of forbidden personal relationships and chapter 20 designates the penalties meted out against those who engage in them. "A man who shall take his sister...it is a disgrace and they shall be cut off in the eyes of the people of their nation." (20:17) The Hebrew word used for "disgrace" in this verse is "chesed", a word that usually carries the positive connotation of a charitable act of kindness. How is it appropriate for this context?

Rashi, Nachmanides and other early commentators explain that the word "chesed" does have an alternative connotation of "shame" and that is the context in which it is used here. Also quoted is the Talmud (Tractate Sanhedrin 58b) that explains the verse in Tehillim/Psalms (89:3) "Kindness (chesed) will build a world," that G-d's kindness in allowing Cain to marry his sister allowed the world to be built and populated. Thus, as much as such a relationship is inherently disgraceful, there is a facet of kindness in it.

An alternative understanding is offered by Michtav MeEliyahu (collected writings and discourses of Rabbi Eliyahu Eliezer Dessler, 1891-1954, of London and Bnei Brak, one of the outstanding thinkers of the Mussar movement). "Chesed" of holiness, chesed as we usually think of it, is giving of ourselves completely for the benefit of others out of our love for G-d and our desire to emulate His holy attributes. In contrast, profane "chesed", the unthinkable acts discussed in our Parsha, are rooted in an absolute commitment to depravity and our desire to fulfill our base urges.

In essence, Rabbi Dessler defines "chesed" as self-nullification out of love and devotion to a cause. Our life's challenge is consistently choosing the cause to which we channel our energy: do we indulge in mundane self-gratification or invest in the sanctification of the world around us?

Have a good Shabbos!


Copyright © 2002 by Rabbi Pinchas Avruch and Project Genesis, Inc.

Kol HaKollel is a publication of the Milwaukee Kollel Center for Jewish Studies 5007 West Keefe Avenue; Milwaukee, Wisconsin; 414-447-7999


 






ARTICLES ON MASEI AND THE THREE WEEKS:

View Complete List

Forgotten Oaths
Rabbi Aron Tendler - 5764

Your Flattery Will Be The Death of Me
Rabbi Yochanan Zweig - 5771

The Sword is Mightier than the Pen
Rabbi Yaakov Menken - 5758

> Chazak
Rabbi Pinchas Winston - 5757

A Day of Rebuilding
Rabbi Label Lam - 5761

Stay Cool
Rabbi Yisroel Ciner - 5761

ArtScroll

Confusing Causation
Rabbi Yissocher Frand - 5768

A Fresh Look at Life
Rabbi Label Lam - 5765

More Generous Thoughts
Rabbi Label Lam - 5764

Frumster - Orthodox Jewish Dating

It Must Have Been a Miracle!
Shlomo Katz - 5773

I Told You So
Rabbi Pinchas Winston - 5772

Why Should We Remember?
Rabbi Berel Wein - 5768

Looking for a Chavrusah?

A Book of Memories
Rabbi Berel Wein - 5767

The Eye Generation
Rabbi Pinchas Winston - 5763

Journey from Egypt to the World-to-Come
Rabbi Pinchas Winston - 5761

A Lesson About Our Psyche
Rabbi Yehudah Prero - 5757



Project Genesis

Torah.org Home


Torah Portion

Jewish Law

Ethics

Texts

Learn the Basics

Seasons

Features

TORAHAUDIO

Ask The Rabbi

Knowledge Base




Help

About Us

Contact Us



Free Book on Geulah!




Torah.org Home
Torah.org HomeCapalon.com Copyright Information