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Hesed: The HEartbeat of Beth Meyer Synagogue

by Rabbi Jenny Solomon

When I graduated from rabbinical school after six long years of study, we celebrated with a “smikhah” (ordination) ritual in which each new rabbi was invited to share a single Jewish text alongside their name in the event program. As you can imagine, there are a vast array of Jewish texts to choose from, but I had absolutely no doubt which text I wanted to link to that powerful moment in my life:

“The beginning of the Torah is hesed (lovingkindness), the middle of the Torah is hesed, and the end of the Torah is hesed. At the beginning, God clothes Adam and Eve; at the end God buries Moses. In the "middle" God visits Abraham when he is in need of healing.” (Tanhuma, Vayishlah 10)

As a new mother and a newly minted rabbi, I had no idea what was in store for me personally or professionally, but I knew one thing: Judaism and Jewish life are built on hesed. The words we often sing from Psalm 89, “Olam hesed yibaneh” express this very sentiment.

I have long felt that hesed is the beating heart of our tradition. Without that heartbeat, we won’t survive — physically or spiritually. It is our tradition of steadfast, relational love that is the foundation for Jewish living and learning, and it is that beautiful inheritance which provides the pathway for creating a healthy and vibrant community.

But according to our tradition, hesed isn’t an abstract concept of “love.” Rather, it is what we actually do in the world. It’s how we live in a sacred community. At Beth Meyer, we have a committee of lay leaders dedicated to making sure the heartbeat of hesed is steady and robust. They lovingly organize our community so that we are ready to respond to those in need of our loving care (which will eventually be ALL of us).

But hesed doesn’t belong to the “Hesed Committee” at Beth Meyer. It belongs to each and every one of us. We are all obligated and capable of bringing more lovingkindness into this world and there are as many ways to do that as there are Beth Meyer members. How will you be a force for hesed in our community?

  • Are you willing to make a meal for a family who has brought a new baby into their lives or is going through a difficult time?
  • Are you willing to be a door opener/greeter at Shabbat services?
  • Are you willing to attend a shiva minyan or learn how to prepare a home for shiva?
  • Are you willing to offer a ride to an older congregant in our community who wants to come to shul but can no longer drive?
  • Are you willing to make a call to a congregant facing an illness once a week or once a month?

My parents always taught me that certain resources in life are finite, but our capacity for love is infinite. I feel that as a parent and a rabbi. No matter how many children we have added to our family or congregants to our congregational family, there is still enough love for everyone. Remember that Torah is not just about acquiring knowledge in our heads. It’s about taking that Torah from our heads into our hearts and out into the world with our hands. You are our hands.

Olam hesed yibaneh — let’s keep building this world with our love.

Thu, July 18 2024 12 Tammuz 5784