by Rabbi Jason
'The kindnesses of the Lord I shall sing forever; to generation after generation I shall make known Your faithfulness, with my mouth. For I said, "Forever will it be built with kindness; as the heavens, with which You will establish Your faithfulness."' -- Psalms 89:2-3
The lessons of kindness coming from the scriptures are as boundless as the kindness Hashem used when He formed Creation. The midrash teaches us that the Torah begins with kindness (the clothing of Adam and Eve) and ends with kindness (the burial of Moses). It seems that chesed is a fundamental force of the universe.
As ten generations prospered on the earth from Adam to Noach, we unfortunately see the force of kindness dwindle to but a drop in the ocean.
Our Sages teach us that the gravity of this pervasive sin was not merely law breaking through theft. The people found a way to steal from one another that was permissible within the bounds of the law. There was no accountability or justice.
Robbery (chamas in Hebrew) represents a new height of selfishness. In Noach's generation, there was a complete reversal of chesed, for no one cared for their brother. Theft within the letter of the law breaks the vital social fabric. When the justice system is unable to correct these kinds of sins, all hope is lost.
restoration of chesed
Because of this state of affairs, the most kindness Hashem could do for humanity was to cleanse it and start over with a new creation, a creation founded on kindness. Noach followed Hashem's instructions in constructing the ark and brought the animals inside. Here Noach creates an inside-out Garden of Eden, caring for the animals as they entered this new universe.
As they were all shut up in the ark for over a year, what were Noach and his family doing during this time? According to B. Sanhedrin 108b, they were meticulously caring for the animals. Animals which normally would eat at night were fed at night. Animals which normally would eat during the day were fed during the daytime. There was one animal, however, which would not eat and Noach didn't know what to feed. One day, Noach was cutting up a pomegranate and a worm came out. The animal snatched up the worm, and from that day on Noach fed the animal worms.
Noach and family barely slept and all the while they meticulously cared for the unique needs of each animal. This is true chesed. Hashem's new world, fresh and clean, was founded again on kindness. As partners with God, we must remember the tikkun (repair) that Noach and his family brought to the world. God cleansed a world of selfishness and replaced it with one founded again on loving-kindness.
This should be the world we create around us. If Noach cared for the animals with each of their special needs in mind, how much more so should we with the people in our lives? Challenge youself to begin and end your day with loving-kindness, just as Noach and his family did, and see what kind of world you can create.
(This and other mussar commentaries can be found at rivertonmussar.org)
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