We learn from Jewish mystical teachings that God-ness comes into the world as Din and as Chesed.
Din is the harsh truth of reality—the laws of nature, the facts of loss, disease and death, the framework of givens that you do not choose such as your historical era and where and to whom you were born. Din is the reality of our circumstances.
Chesed, on the other hand, is the flow of caring, abundance and kindness through the universe.
Both Din and Chesed are equally important. We wouldn’t have livable lives without the order of natural laws, or the discipline of ethical agreements. But those forces are already set for us. Judaism teaches that humans are here to add Chesed, or Kindness, to the cold facts of Din. Our human role is to enhance caring. That’s how we add value. When we are stressed and distressed, it can be hard to channel Chesed. So it takes practice, the practice of Judaism or of other spiritual traditions, to bring our human gift of Chesed into the world. Here is a Chesed practice.
Sit comfortably and take some deep breaths, scanning the body for places of tension; breath into these places and feel them relax. Feel your mind settle into your body with alert presence.
Imagine a specific moment when you were treated kindly in the past. It could be an instance with someone you know well or an instance with a complete stranger such as a driver giving you unexpected right-of-way. Let this Chesed/kindness infuse into your body, spreading from behind you through every vein, muscle and limb. Let the kindness deeply soak into yourself.
Then imagine the web of kindness and care that allowed that one Chesed moment to happen. Imagine the caretakers and doctors and teachers and grocery clerks and crossing guards until you are imagining a wide web of caring.
Let that care flow right through you. Accept it deeply. Let it permeate every sinew and tissue and limb. Let it flow out the front of you into the world.
Let your potent receiving of Chesed/ kindness melt the frame with which you see the world. Let your receiving transform the way you think about everything you encounter, shifting from hostile, despairing frames to lighter, more optimistic and kind perspective, eg. Instead of “This person is a pain- in- the- ass,” let the awareness of past Chesed that is now coursing through you convert your understanding, “This person must be in pain.”
After a moment of compassioning your perspective, re-scan your body, breathing deeply, grounding into this moment. Feel the breath going up and down your central core. Notice your feet, hands, bottom, head. Open your eyes and rejoin your world. Do a conscious caring act, an act of Chesed, sometime in the next few hours. Your act will join the flow of Chesed through the universe, adding your humanity to God-given reality.
By: Rabbi Julie Greenberg