Weekly Torah Commentary – Chukat July 1, 2011

“When Og, King of Bashan, went to do battle with Israel, God said to Moshe, ‘Do not fear him, for into your hand have I given him’.”  21:34

The topic of the merit for good deeds is a fascinating one that has occupied many a study through the ages.  We know from the Torah that good deeds bring blessings.  Rashi comments on the pasuk above that Moshe was concerned that Og might be victorious over the Israelites in the merit of his having informed Avraham that his nephew, Lot, had been taken captive. (The “fugitive” in Gen. 14:13 is generally considered to have been this same man, Og)

Rashi also comments, however, that Og’s intention may not have been pure.  There seems to be some indication that he hoped Avraham might be killed so that he, Og, could marry Sarah.  Nevertheless, Avraham wondered if his meritorious deed of enabling Avraham to save his nephew would grant him blessing in battle.

This is one of many examples in Torah of how the patriarchs viewed the merit of doing an act of kindness (chesed).  Even if the action is done with ulterior motives, and even if the motive is reprehensible, the very fact that the kindness was shown at all merits at least some reward — in this case, saving the life of Lot.  And you know that in Judaism, saving a life is of the highest priority.

Acts of kindness are inestimably precious in the eyes of God, whose own kindness is boundless and everlasting.  Our deeds of kindness give him great pleasure for we are reflecting His nature and emulating Him.

One of the ‘temptations’, if you will, that comes to all of us is to feel as if “why am I always the one who has to give in?” or “why do I always have to be kind but they’re not?”   We tend to fall into this trap if we lose perspective on why we do acts of kindness.  They are not predicated on the worthiness of the person to whom we show kindness.  We do acts of chesed because we want to be like our Father who is kind to all.  We do acts of kindness because it is the RIGHT thing to do.  It is not up to us to decide if the person at hand “deserves” our kindness.  The truth is that none of us “deserves” the incredible Kindness of our God towards us.  We choose kindness because our Father deserves to be honored in this way.  That, my friends, is the perspective that will create men and women of holy kindness who will shed light and love wherever they go.

Neither do we decide on acts of kindness depending on what benefit they may bring to us in this life.  G-d forbid!  That’s not kindness but self-serving hypocrisy!  May none of us be found there!

In Tune with Torah this week = examine your kindness quotient.  How are you doing?  Why are you doing what you do?  Can you be kind even to those who are not kind to you?  If you can, blessed are you for walking in the ways of the Holy One of Israel!

Shabbat Shalom

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