[In anticipation of Shavuos, the holiday coming up this week, the next few posts will be about that holiday. Reminder of translation Hashem=G-d.]
On Shavuos we read the scroll of Ruth, “Megillas Rus”. We are taught that this saga of a noble woman who converted to Judaism was written just to show us the incredible way of kindness. An entire story written to show us a paradigm of true giving. Is Chesed [kind acts] that important?
So…let us talk about Chesed. “The Torah begins with Chesed and ends with Chesed” (Rabbi Simlai says in the Gemorah referring to with Hashem giving and taking care of Adam and clothing him and ends with Hashem burying Moshe).
There were two rabbis who were co-leaders of the Jews at one point in history named Hillel and Shammai. Once, a non-Jewish man came to Shamay and said, “I want to become a Jew, if you can teach me the Torah while standing on one leg.” Shamay chased him away, thinking him ridiculous. The guy then went to Hillel and asked him the same thing. Hillel said fine. The man stood on one leg and Hillel said, “what is hateful to you, don’t do to someone else. That is the whole Torah, the rest is commentary, now go study it.” The man began studying it, and before you know it, he was a complete Jew who knew all Halacha [Jewish law].
Why is Chesed so important and how does it teach the whole Torah? A few ways. First of all, Torah is meant to help us become close to Hashem and imitate Hashem’s actions. The entire world was created and is run with amazing amounts of Chesed. Hashem is complete Chesed (think of the sun rising each day). So the highest form of knowing Hashem is to understand the Chesed and imitate it.
Rabbi Bamberger of Ponevezh explains that a person who cannot see beyond his own needs to the needs of others has limited sight and can never grasp and “see” a concept like Hashem. By lifting our eyes beyond our selfishness, we see beyond our limitation to be able to understand amazing spirituality.
Lastly, the only reason we were given Torah is because of Hashem’s Chesed to us. “Ratzah HaKadosh Baruch Hu Lzakos Ess Yisroel, Lfeechach Herrbah LaHem Torah U’Mitzvos” The only reason we have Torah and Mitzvos is so Hashem could give us reward, so that Hashem could teach us how to use this world and our bodies right and so that we are getting more from life and from Hashem. Commandments of the Torah are not a burden, they are the kindest thing G-d has done for us, giving us a blueprint to navigate this world to get eternal reward.
What was Rus’s giving that it was “worthwhile” to write a whole book about – that she completely nullified herself, didn’t look at her own needs, and that she worried about someone else first. Megillas Rus, a scroll, all about a special woman with superhuman strength of being kind