Chessed Chinam

Friday, 8 September, 2017 - 7:46 am


“Chessed Chinam”.

This is a phrase that I used to hear and still hear from my father very often. Hashem has done “Chessed Chinam” with us –has treated us well without our having done anything to deserve it. My father says this not only when there is some huge, surprising  miracle, not only when he speaks of his surviving life in Soviet Russia and of his escape from there. No – he says it also about seemingly standard, trivial events such as the birth of a child or a grandchild, or just when you’ve told him that everything, Baruch Hashem is as usual, and all is good – that too is a Chessed from Hashem.

In this week’s Parasha Rashi explains this.

At the end of the Parasha Moshe calls together the entire Jewish People and speaks to them of the miracles that Hashem performed for them since they left Egypt. “He said to them, You have seen everything that Hashem did in front of your eyes in the land of Egypt to Pharaoh and his servants and his entire land – the great trials that your eyes beheld, those great signs and wonders.”

At the end of his speech Moshe adds one more, slightly surprising sentence: “But Hashem did not give you a heart to know, or eyes to see, or ears to hear until this day.” In other words, Hashem performed miracles for you, but you didn’t really relate to them as anything important, as if you didn’t see or hear that these were miracles. Or, as Rashi puts it: “to recognize the acts of lovingkindness (Chasdei) of Hashem and to cleave to him.”

But – how can one say that they didn’t see nor recognize the miracles? We all remember Shirat Hayam (the Song of – where they all stood there, recognized the miracles, and sang and thanked Hashem!

This question is brought by the Rebbe in his Likutei Sichot (vol. 14). As usual, the Rebbe explains the issue through a careful reading of Rashi, bringing in the Chessed Chinam that I mentioned above. Rashi does not say they didn’t have aheart, eyes or ears to recognize the miracles they experienced, because it is clear that they saw and even were excited about them. Rashi says “to recognize Chasdei Hashem” Chassadim – acts of lovingkindess – are not the great miracles such as the plagues brought upon Egypt or the Splitting of the Sea. Chassadim are the everyday things, those that we are already used to – those small miracles that are concealed within nature and we take them for granted. This is what Moshe Rabbeinu is coming to tell us at the end of the Parasha: you’ve gotten so used to everything working out well, that you have not noticed – not seen nor heard – the small Chassadim of the everyday.

We are all human beings; we get used to the good very fast and forget to recognize the everyday Chassadim and to thank Hashem for them. So Moshe Rabbeinu comes in this week’s Parasha and says: Open your eyes, pay attention, listen – Hashem is doing Chassadim with you every morning and every evening. Recognize this, and cleave to Him and to His ways.

Shabbat Shalom,


Rabbi Zalmen Wishedski

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