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"For Instruction shall come forth from Zion, The word of the L-rd from Jerusalem." -- Isaiah 2:3


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GENESIS — 47:29 kindness

Acts characterized as gimilut hasadim are considered expressions of loving-kindness because they may be done selflessly, without thoughts of recompense from the recipient.  For example, when Jacob is dying, he asks Joseph to treat him with “kindness (hesed) and with truth (emet)” [this verse]. On this verse, Rashi commented, “The kindness that is sown to the dead is a true kindness (hesed shel emit), for [in such a case] one does not expect the payment of recompense [from the recipient].”  Isaac Aboab wrote that “zedakah given selflessly for the sake of Heaven, graciously and compassionately, is called gemilut Hasidim” Thus, Abaob identified gemilut hasadim as an exalted variety of zedakah. Aboab refused to assign zedakah to one realm and gemilut hasadim to another. Instead, Aboab perceived a certain fluidity between dutiful actions and benevolent actions.  For Aboab, as well as for others, actions that may benefit others embrace a wide spectrum from self-serving or reluctant giving of zedakah to perfectly selfless acts of loving-kindness. SHER20C 136

GENESIS — 47:29 loyalty

If man occupies himself with the study of Torah and acts of kindness and so awakens the Divine attributes of mercy, then when he is, G-d forbid, in trouble, the Holy One, blessed be He, Himself, will hear his case and extended His chesed to him. So the person will surely be saved. It is otherwise when a person has been exclusively preoccupied with Torah study, and he did not devote himself sufficiently to acts of chesed. Then the Heavenly chesed is correspondingly not aroused on his behalf. So if he afterwards suffers distress, G-d forbid, and he is, at the same time, arraigned in Heaven, then he will not succeed in entirely preventing the forces of justice exercising power over him. This is the meaning of Chazal's assertion: "He who only occupies himself with Torah study and not with kindness is as if he has no G-d." He is like one who has no G-d to shield him by His Divine Mercies and chesed from the forces of justice, because he had cast those holy virtues behind him. A similar idea is expressed in Bava Kamma (17a), according to one version: "Whoever occupies himself with Torah and acts of chesed, his enemies shall fall before him, as his written of Joseph (Deuteronomy 33:17): 'He shall gore the people, all of them, even to the ends of the earth.' He acquires intuitive understanding like the children of Issachar, (1 Chr. 12:32): 'And the children of Issachar had understanding of the times…'" Through the merit of Torah study one requires understanding like the children of Issachar, whose occupation was Torah and thereby they acquired understanding; through his acts of chesed one causes his enemies to fall before him, as Joseph did because he engaged in acts of kindness in very great measure.  He supplied food to many lands during the famine, and in particular to his father Jacob’s family.  Also, he took care of his father’s funeral, and this too is deemed chesed by Scripture [this verse]. … one should appreciate this greatness of the virtue of chesed; one should cling to it, as so be rescued from distress both in this world and the next.  AHAVH 92-3

GENESIS — 47:29 loyalty

True kindness is when you help someone without any ulterior motive.   Rashi comments on the phrase “kindly and truly” that kindness which is shown to the dead is true kindness, for one who does chesed for a dead person certainly does not look forward to any payment.   When someone does something for another person so that the person will in turn do him favors, the action cannot be considered true kindness.  Rather, it is a form of bartering in which the merchandise is not objects but favors. Whenever you do something for others, have their benefit in mind, not your own.  (Shaloh, cited in Eved Hamelech, Braishis, p. 118a).   PLYN 124

GENESIS — 47:31 swear

With some minor exceptions, promises are not enforceable.   The law that reflects   common cynical appraisal of promises.   They are hollow words spoken by someone eager to make a good impression.   There are several reasons for the failure of the law to give promises binding force.   A promise may be a declaration of intent rather than a formulation of an irrevocable decision. Promises flow from sudden impulses and do not represent a reasoned conclusion. The extemporaneous phraseology of a promise lacks careful framing. Promises are frequently made in jest. From a legal point of view, promises may be broken with impunity.   [Note: The reader should be cautious; this is not necessarily true under American law – AJL].   What about the moral point of view? Does a person who has no regard for his word brand himself as untrustworthy? Does a breach of promise constitute a breach of faith and trust? Most biblical passages and injunctions dealing with promises relate to oaths and vows, which are legally binding. Jacob made Joseph swear that he would transport this body for burial at the Cave of Machpelah [this verse]. Jacob realized that Joseph’s responsibilities might make it difficult for him to get a leave of absence. This might force him to break a promise, but he would never violate an oath. Prior to Joseph’s death, he too made his kinsmen swear that his skeleton would be removed from Egypt when all the Hebrew slaves departed the land. Genesis 50:25 A later generation might not feel bound by a mere promise made several centuries earlier, especially if circumstances rendered such a time-consuming task a most difficult assignment. He therefore demanded an oath. To preclude the possibility of retraction, all promises made to G-d were put in the form of a vow. “And Jacob vowed a vow, saying: ‘If G-d will be with me … of all that thou shalt give me, I will give a tenth unto thee’” Genesis 28:20-22.  And Israel vowed a vow unto the Lord, and said …” Numbers 21:2   Ecclesiastes warned people against breaking a vow on the excuse that it was unintentional and “made in error” Ecclesiastes 5:5.   Apparently there was no significant opprobrium attached to a breach of a verbal promise to a fellowman.   BLOCH 248-9

GENESIS — 48:5 sons

It was taught: “If a woman curses her husband’s father in his [her husband’s] presence, she is divorced without receiving the amount stipulated in her kethubah [marriage contract.] R. Yehudah said in the name of Shmuel: “This need not be specifically in his presence, but applies even if she curses his father in the presence of his children [for ‘grandchildren are considered, as children.’] A device for remembering this is: ‘Ephraim and Menashe will be to me as Reuven and Shimon’” Ketubot 72b TEMIMAH-GEN 185

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