Gardening for the Tree of Life — Simple Steps, Chesed

Chesed: Expansive emotion

Symptom: difficulty developing a flow of energy and momentum

The fourth Sefirah is Chesed. The conventional translation of Chesed is “kindness”, the emotion that motivates a person to give. In a broader sense, however, Chesed can be defined as “extension or expansion” — the emotion that creates a flow of outwardness, of extending one’s self. Chesed can relate to giving, but more essentially, it relates to any outward movement. A person for example who investigates a variety of options to make an investment must come to a conclusion and choose a spexific investment. In order to take the leap into action and make it happen, there is a point of extension, a willingness to go with the flow that has been dictated by his intellectual conclusions.

That willingness is the emotion of Chesed, the first of the emotions. It is the beginning of the transition from intellect to emotion. But why not go from intellect directly into action? The gap between intellect and action is still too great. Intellect is cool and detached, removed from the passion that is needed to make the leap into action. Without emotion we remain stuck into intellect. Chesed is like the oil that lubricates a motor, allowing its parts to move smoothly and not seize up. Chesed provides the impetus that creates momentum and forward drive. Chesed does not need to control the situation, instead it flows with it.

Chesed in the Torah: Eliezer

It is well known that Avraham epitomises Chesed, kindness. His approach to life was expansive and risk taking. In all of his endeavours Avraham threw himself into his role with gusto and abandon.

His servant Eliezer, was sent by Avraham to Aram Naharaim to find a bride for Yitzhak, the Torah tells us that as Eliezer arrived there, he prayed, “ G-d..of my master Avraham…please arrange for me today and do chesed with my master Avraham. He suggests to G-d a scenario by which he will know that he has found the right girl for Yitzhak. “ The girl to whom I will ask…(for drink) and she will say, ‘Drink and also water your camel’ her You will have designated for your servant, for Yitzhak, and by her I will know that you have done kindness with my master”

In this narrative Eliezer prepares himself to be the recipient of G-d’s Chesed. Why does Eliezer request that an unusual and miraculous scenario be played out so as to facilitate the accomplishment of his mission?

Confidence in the mission

Eliezer expects a miracle, not basd on his own merit but rather because of his total trust in the merit of his master Avraham, as his states in his request. Eliezer, the trusted servant, is so empowered by his commitment to Avraham that he has confidence in the G-dly assistance he will be receiving.

The Chesed driven individual has a sense of invulnerability that allows him to throw himself into a situation with the full assurance that he will not fail. But why dont’t we simply let go of the details and allow G-d to perform the miracle in a manner of his own choosing?

Transition of Daas to Chesed: Visualisation Leads to flow

Daas envisions the positive outcome of an event before it takes place; it takes an idea and a plan from a purely intellectual zone to a more internalised zone that can be converted to a reality. Visualising a specific scenario make the mission more “real” creating the excitement and commitment needed to propel the mission forward. The visualisation of the desired result is the last stage of Daas; it is the launching pad for Chesed.

We need to be aware that we are only a vehicle for the mission and be flexible enough to accept that the actual plan may play out in a different scenario that the one we had envisioned. This attitude of flexibility allows the transition to Chesed, throwing us fully into the situation without the need to be in control of the events.

The oath to be righteous

In the Tanya, R’ Schneur Zalman starts by describing the descent of a soul into the world. The soul must swear an oath to be righteous. How can the soul be forced to swear that it will be righteous? What is to say that when confronted with the challenges of material life, the soul will be able to prevail and remain steadfast? To explain another interpretation is given for the work “oath”. This same word can be also be translated as “satiated” meaning that the soul is satiated. The connotation is that prior to its descent to the world is empowered with all the necessary tools and resources to fulfill its mission successfully. It is satiated with an abundance of power. Empowerment plays a vital role in the birth of Chesed.

A lack of Chesed will present itself a lack of trust, un unwillingness to trust in one’s superiors to provide effective leadership and tools, and an inability to trust others to fulfill their end of the contract or do their job. Most importantly, the core of Chesed deficiency is the lack of trust in oneself. In fact, the distrust of oneself is the cause of the broader destruct of others. This crisis of confidence translates into a very controlling mentality.

Making the leap: Actual Chesed

The key aspect of actual Chesed is the leap that must be made from intellect to emotion, from contemplation to feeling, from detachment to attachment. Taking the Chesed leap demands exposure to outside elements such as judgment, ridicule, and so on. Whereas Daas remains an intellectual faculty that connects to an idea or objective on an internal level. Chesed is the bridge into action, a natural emotional flow of outwardness that necessitates caution to the wind.

Stages of treatment

  1. Confidence in the mission
  2. Trust in oneself
  3. Making the leap
Confidence in the mission

Whatever the particular goal or initiative, the doer must feel that he or she is engaged in a positive and valuable endeavour. The validity of the mission and the conviction of being “on the side of the angels” boosts up one’s confidence to make the necessary leap of faith Chesed entails.

Awareness of a deeper truth

For Daas to transition into Chesed, there must be the awareness that the vision and the perspective which Daas has attained is itself a gift from a higher source. Although it appears to Daas that it has obtained its vision and clear perception through hard work and visualisation, it is nonetheless true that the particular details of Daas’s picture are not random, but rather came from a higher and deeper source within the person’s subconscious will.

Trust in oneself

One of the reasons that people lose confidence is that, on some level, they are are aware that they have become disconnected from their higher truth or purpose. Trust in self dictates a re-examination of one’s own motives and an attempt to realign them with a higher truth and purpose.

Making the leap: Trust in other

The third and final stage of the transition from Daas to Chesed will allow for an actual leap into an emotional flow and excitement. After Daas recognises that it has received its vision from a higher source, it becomes less rigid and controlling, and more wiling to flexible and expansive.

The key element of this transition from an analytical, scripted, Daas approach toward a more fluid, expansive and spontaneous approach is taking the leap.

So the circuit is complete. The Dass oriented individual is no longer isolated within his own world. Instead he begins to see himself as a conduit between the higher force that has provided the vision and the emotional forces, the actors that will be enacting the play.

(this is a part of a series of posts summarising on my learning on “ The Sefiros and the Self” by Rabbi Yaakov Feder)