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Can I Give without Love

Develop Your Potential from Exodus 18:12

וַיִּקַּ֞ח יִתְר֨וֹ חֹתֵ֥ן מֹשֶׁ֛ה עֹלָ֥ה וּזְבָחִ֖ים לֵֽאלֹהִ֑ים וַיָּבֹ֨א אַהֲרֹ֜ן וְכֹ֣ל ׀ זִקְנֵ֣י יִשְׂרָאֵ֗ל לֶאֱכׇל־לֶ֛חֶם עִם־חֹתֵ֥ן מֹשֶׁ֖ה לִפְנֵ֥י הָאֱלֹהִֽים׃

“Aaron and all the elders of Israel came to eat bread with Moses’ father-in-law while Moses served them.”


Moses understood the importance of Chesed, of giving rather than receiving. Where it doesn’t matter if you give people something literal/physical, such as a meal, for example, or attention or time.

Chesed is perhaps the most important trait a person must learn to develop. Namely, it is the foundation upon which HaShem created the world. So it was not for nothing that at the moment when there was no more chesed in the world-but only greed and corruption-the world was cleansed by the flood.

We see the Ark containing Moses and his family taking care of the animals all the time. Giving them everything they needed, the right food, the right place, the attention that needed. The Ark overflowed with Chesed, Chesed that was needed to make and keep the new world habitable.

As mentioned briefly above, chesed is not just physically giving something to another person, but also time and attention. Tasks of chesed also include, for example, doing your household, or your work, as long as you do it with the right intention. You clean the house because everyone in your house will benefit, you do your work not only for the money but also because by doing so you contribute to society and you help people.

Take it to a Higher Level

While it is good to give chesed because you know it is good, it is even better to give chesed in loving – kindness. This is sometimes more difficult, but practice makes perfect, as the following story shows.

Rabbi Bunim spent his early years as a businessman. In his constant business travels, he used every interaction as a means to bring Jews closer to HaShem. On one such journey, he stopped at an inn on a col, stormy night. The Jewish innkeeper found in Rabbi Bunim a sympathic ear for his tale of a failing business. The peasants no longer came to him, vats of liquor sat untoched in the basement and the landlord was growing impatient for the rent. Rabbi Bunim spoke with the man for awhile, and then sat down to learn.

In the middle of the night, there was a loud knock on the door. A traveler, drenched and freezing begged the innkeepr to admit him, even though ha had no money with which to pay. The innkeeper sighned at his misfortune – he finally had a customer, but even this wouldn’t bring him any money. Nevertheless, he helped the traveler. He let him in, gave him a change of clothing and a room for the night. The traveler, however, was still shivering. “Could you bring me some vodka, please?”he asked. “I don’t have any money, but I’m so cold.”

The innkeeper went to the basement to tap into his vodka supply for the first time in weeks – once again, for no profit. He didn’t notice that Rabbi Bunim was there, watching him. What the rabbi saw, however struck him so powerfully that he told of the scene for the rest of his life. The innkeeper poured a cupf of vodka, then shook his head, firmly and smashed the cup to the floor. Once, twice, three times, four thimes he repeated this procedrue, oblivious to the sin of wastefulness he was committing. Finally, upon pouring the fith cup, he happily proclamed, “Now!” and brought the vodka to his gust.

Rabbi Butim asked the innkeeper the explain his strange behaviour. The explanation was touchingly simple. He couldn’t serve the guest a drink he had poured with disappointment and resentment in his heart. H knewe ha had been handed a golden mitzvah – a chance to revive a shiviring, hungry, poor man, yet his financiel worries were clouthing his ability to appreciate the gift. He tried an tried again, until he reached the vein of chesed of loving-kindness within him. Then, satisfied that he was doing his act of kindness with a full heart, he brought the man his drink.

Let us only strive to serve others in love.

By Angelique Sijbolts

Bronnen: Kehot Chumash Yitro, en Liefdevolle vriendelijkheid door Chofetz Chaim

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