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G'milut Hesed

Acts of Kindness and Care

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G’milut Hesed, acts of kindess, involves loyalty, dependability and caring for others in need. It arises not merely from friendship or personal feeling, but from a sense of obligation. Jewish communities have long made it the business of every member to visit the sick, care for elders, comfort mourners, welcome guests, and celebrate the formation of new families and the welcoming of children.  Actions like these are the glue that holds a covenantal community together. They are the cause, not the result, of closer connections between people. One of our contemporary challenges is to move past the notions of privacy and radical autonomy prevalent in American culture that may make us uncomfortable with the notion of relative strangers coming into our homes for a shiva call, or with the prospect of offering support to someone we may not know well. G’milut hesed, acts of kindness and care, are ultimately a covenantal demand, not an act of friendship or even empathy. Yet the genius of the covenantal idea is that acts of hesed can become ingrained in the fabric of our communities, nurturing both friendship and empathy.1

  • 1. Adapted from A Guide to Jewish Practice, Volume 2—Shabbat and Holidays