Omer Week One: Chesed

Thoughts from Rabbi Lee Moore
This article is from the Lippman Kanfer Foundation for Living Torah Blog

Chesed is often translated as loving-kindness, but I prefer the term Grace. Chesed denotes a kind of expansiveness that we often do associate with love. Where there is a willingness to open, a willingness to accept, a willingness to allow what was previously wrong be OK –Chesed breaks through.

This kind of breakthrough feels like love in the sense that Chesed provides a truly unconditional milieu where connections are forged and closeness happens beyond what one might have thought was possible. We see Chesed at work when we reach the edge of what is possible, and then realize that we can actually go farther, expand our horizons, generate new ideas, forge new connections, embrace new ways of being, and discover new places to be.

A realm of opportunity and growth, Chesed displays the kind of love that the world naturally provides, even though the world may not ‘deserve’ it. For this reason, Rabbi Ebn Leader has emphasized birth as a key metaphor for this symbol-cluster. At birth, a being has done nothing to merit its coming into this world. It is freely created with no reason for being; being itself can be seen as a selfless gift in this domain.

Too much of any one of the sephirot causes the creative process to stall. While it may be hard to imagine ‘too much love,’ try imagining ‘too much expansiveness.’ We all crave closeness and the feelings of opportunity – that the sky should be wide open and anything could happen. Still, when something expands too quickly without any limits, it can become diffuse and confusing – perhaps even unsafe or out of control. When something or someone gets too close to us without appropriate boundaries, violation can quickly and easily happen. ‘Being more’ and ‘pushing beyond’ is not always better.

For this week of Chesed, we can begin a process of self-improvement by turning our attention toward how we have been expanding, how we might want to expand more and how we have been accepting or encouraging of the expansion of others. Where do we need to create more space in our life so that we can grow into it and accept others’ growth, as well? How can we be more willing, and unconditional, in our love?


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