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Black threads are woven into the very fabric of every life.No wonder, then, that the Jewish tradition elevates deeds of loving kindness (chesed) to the highest possible ranking among soul-traits.
So where is the chesed in the suffering and tears that plague our lives?God is the Master of chesed, because, as the Psalm states, "The world is built on chesed"(89:3).For God to have created the world at all was nothing short of an act of chesed!But when we get it right, our perfected chesed makes us pious and righteous people (hence the linguistic relationship between chesed and Chasidim).Focus inwardly and then ask of your heart: enter joyfully into the love of generously sustaining the other. The heart and the world are called to connection, linked by flowing loving kindness.This is what the Sages meant when they wrote that the way of those who do chesed is to run after the poor (Shabbat 104a).
Another way to understand this distinction is to recognize that there are deeds of chesed, and then there are souls that are totally infused with the spirit of chesed.That means that acts qualify as chesed only when they are motivated by a spirit of generosity.You are not obligated to do it, you aren't repaying an act done for you, you don't hope to get anything in return -- you are generously reaching beyond those limited acts to give of yourself in a spirit of honest and selfless generosity.I can already hear somebody saying, yes, but what of the inner feeling people get when they know they are doing something good? Mussar points out that some people are moved to acts of chesed whenever they meet up with someone in need of their help.Others, however, don't wait for the opportunity to come to them, but rather search out any chance to act generously in ways that sustain others.We persist in breathing, our hearts go on beating and we find the strength to rise again because God sustains us. We can learn from God's chesed that what we call loving kindness involves acts that sustain the other.