True Kindness by David Pietruszka


          In this week's Parsha, the Torah says that Yaakov was nearing death and he called Yosef and asked him to swear that he would deal with him with חסד ואמת, kindness and truth, and not bury him in Mitzrayim (בראשית מ"ז:כ"ט).  Rashi, commenting on the phrase חסד ואמת, kindness and truth, explains that true kindness , which he calls חסד של אמת, is the kindness done for a dead person because there is no way for that person to repay anyone for this kindness.  If one does favors for his friends, that is certainly good and admirable, but it is not true kindness because one knows that these friends may eventually return the favors.  The Shaloh is thus quoted as teaching that when one does favors for his friends, he should think only in terms of how those friends will benefit from this, not how he himself will later benefit from it.  A person who thinks only of himself and what he will gain from doing this act of kindness is failing to fulfill the Mitzvah of "ואהבת לרעך כמוך", to love one's fellow man as he loves himself, because he is interested only in himself and not in anybody else.

            Rav Shimshon Raphael Hirsch offers another explanation to this idea of true kindness, חסד של אמת.  True kindness is done when one does not forget the spiritual aspect of the kindness and focuses on more than just the emotional aspect.  People often act kindly for emotional reasons, but thereby ignore the religious element of kindness, which insists that the kindness be true.  True kindness goes beyond the emotional.  Without that spiritual element, an act may be kind, but it is not true.  Yaakov had no doubt that Yosef would bury him with the utmost respect, out of kindness.  But he didn't want Yosef to forget the truth which had to be part of his act of kindness.  He therefore insisted that he be buried in Eretz Yisrael, the true homeland for the Jewish people, and thereby taught that kindness, in order to be true, must have a spiritual element, not just an emotional one.

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