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 YOM KIPPUR:

View Complete List

Saying Is Believing
Rabbi Yochanan Zweig - 5771

I Was Wrong
Rabbi Label Lam - 5769

Understanding Our Special Conduct
Rabbi Yehudah Prero - 5755

> Time to Return
Shlomo Katz - 5768

Perfect Mitzvos
Rabbi Yaakov Menken - 5764

Sair HaMishtaleach: The Scapegoat
Rabbi Osher Chaim Levene - 5767

ArtScroll

Deep Heat Therapy
Rabbi Aron Tendler - 5758

Yom Kippur: Of Angels & Men
Rabbi Osher Chaim Levene - 5766

Picture Perfect
Rabbi Berel Wein - 5763

Frumster - Orthodox Jewish Dating

A Happy Day
Shlomo Katz - 5769

A Yom Kippur to Remember
Rabbi Eliyahu Hoffmann - 5760

Viduy: I Confess!
Rabbi Osher Chaim Levene - 5768

Looking for a Chavrusah?

Completing The Process
Rabbi Moshe Peretz Gilden - 5764

Identical Deeds
Rabbi Yisroel Ciner - 5760

Complete Teshuvah
Shlomo Katz - 5772

Our Ticket to the Hall of Fame
Rabbi Label Lam - 5768



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