Science and Faith Weekend at Great Malvern in Worcestershire
Good afternoon everyone. It is pleasure to be here and participate in this multifaceted exploration of compassion. I have prepared a hand-out of the Hebrew words and their meanings in the order they come up in my talk, which you may wish to refer to.
Compassion: a deep feeling of concern and care for others. If only there was more compassion in the world. If only people were less self-centred and indifferent to the needs of others. Perhaps, if there was more compassion, there would be less cruelty, persecution, oppression and tyranny. A materialist might argue, by contrast, if the economic and political arrangements in the world were not skewed in favour of a powerful few, there would be less cruelty, persecution, oppression and tyranny. I have been asked to talk to you about compassion from the perspective of Jewish teaching, which offers yet another approach. Jewish teaching begins with the Torah, also referred to as ‘the Five Books of Moses’, the first five books of the TaNaKh, the Hebrew Bible, known by their English names as: Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers and Deuteronomy. In the Torah, compassion, rachamim, is a quality, almost exclusively, of the Eternal One – and in some cases, of people with the power to dispense compassion.
I have just mentioned ‘the Eternal One’. Before I proceed any further, I need to say something about the way in which the Divine is referenced in Jewish teaching and liturgy. I shall be using the designation ‘the Eternal’ or ‘the Eternal One’ in honour of the tradition that the name of the Divine presented by the Hebrew consonants, Yud Hei Vav Hei (YHWH) is never pronounced. Significantly, these consonants are based on the Hebrew root letters Hei Yud Hei, meaning, to ‘be.’ Because the name of the Divine is never pronounced, Jewish tradition has dictated that a substitute word is used: Adonai. The way in which this works is that the vowels of Adonai are applied to the consonants, Yud Hei Vav Hei. The literal meaning of Adonai is ‘my Lords’ – hence, the usual translation, ‘Lord’. Misunderstanding that the vowels indicate that the consonants Yud Hei Vav Hei should be substituted with the word, Adonai, some people, most notably Jehovah’s Witnesses, read the vowels with the consonants, and so, mistakenly, have come up with the name, Y’hovah.
Since the root meaning of Yud Hei Vav Hei is, to ‘be’, referring to the Divine as ‘Eternal’ or ‘Eternal One’ comes closest to the meaning of the consonants and to the ineffable nature of the Divine, thus preserving the traditional notion that the Eternal cannot be captured in a name. This is, indeed, one of the central messages of the narrative in Exodus chapter 3, concerning Moses’ encounter with the Eternal in the wilderness at the burning bush that is not consumed by the flames. When Moses demands to know the name of the mysterious presence addressing him, the reply he receives only serves to underline the mystery: Ehyeh asher Ehyeh: ‘I am who I am’ – or, ‘I will be who I will be’; the Hebrew imperfect tense expresses both present and future meanings. The Hebrew itself conveys the ineffability of the Eternal even more powerfully. As Gabriel Josipovici has pointed out, Ehyeh is barely consonantal. Try saying it: Ehyeh…
So, the Divine is essentially unknowable, but of course Judaism, like other religions, makes statements concerning the nature of the Eternal and about the relationship of the Eternal to humanity. In the Book of Exodus, at chapter 34, in the midst of the narrative of the Revelation of the Divine at Mount Sinai, we find a powerful and comprehensive statement of the attributes of the Eternal in the context of Moses receiving the second set of tablets. Those of you who are familiar with the narrative, may recall that Moses smashed the first set of tablets in rage when, returning from forty days and nights on the top of the mountain communing with the Eternal, he saw the people worshipping a molten calf. We read in Exodus chapter 34:
The Eternal descended in the cloud, and stood with him there, and proclaimed the name of the Eternal. /Then the Eternal passed by before him, and proclaimed: “The Eternal, the Eternal, God, compassionate and gracious, long-suffering, and abundant in love and truth; / extending love to the thousandth generation, forgiving iniquity and transgression and error; but by no means acquitting the guilty; visiting the iniquity of the parents upon the children and upon the children’s children, to the third and to the fourth generations.”
Referred to in subsequent rabbinic commentary as ‘the Thirteen Attributes’ of the Eternal, the list balances the attributes of compassion or mercy – the Hebrew for both is the same – with those of justice. Nevertheless, the balance seems to be in favour of compassion: love to the thousandth generation on the one hand; on the other, those who commit iniquity can expect the impact of their actions to be felt within their lifetime – to the third and fourth generation; that is, by their children, their grandchildren and their great-grandchildren.
According to rabbinic interpretation, each one of the statements expresses a different Divine attribute, including each of the two references to ‘the Eternal’, and the reference to ’God’ – El – a word which in the plural is also used in the Torah of ‘gods’ in general – eilim. So: the Eternal, the Eternal, God – three attributes and then: Compassionate; rachum. From the standpoint of the ‘plain’ meaning of the passage – known in rabbinic hermeneutics as the p’shat – reference to the Eternal as compassionate, rachum, constitutes the first description of the Divine: Adonai, Adonai, El, rachum… “The Eternal, the Eternal, God, compassionate….” The adjective, ‘compassionate’, rachum is related to the noun, ‘compassion’, rachamim. There are multiple statements about the ‘compassion’ of the Divine in the TaNaKh. For example, in Isaiah chapter 63, we read:
I will recall the love of the Eternal, the praises of the Eternal, concerning all that the Eternal has done for us, and the great goodness to the house of Israel, which He bestowed upon them, according to His compassion and according to the greatness of His love.
Significantly, in this passage, Divine compassion, rachamim, is connected with Divine love, chesed. Chesed also features in the proclamation of the attributes of the Eternal – ‘abundant in love’ – and there is an important link between compassion and love, which I will explore later. But let us stay, for the time being, with compassion. The adjective, rachum, ‘compassionate’, and the noun, rachamim, ‘compassion’ are based on the Hebrew root, Reish Cheit Mem. And both are related to another noun based on the same root: rechem, meaning ‘womb’. In Psalm 103, we read: “As a father has compassion on his children, so the Eternal has compassion on those who revere Him.” However, contrary to the image of the Divine as compassionate ‘Father’, the compassion of the Eternal emanates from the womb.
In a familiar story from the Torah, in Genesis chapter 43, we find a startling example of the association of Divine compassion with another part of the female anatomy. Having left their brother, Judah, in Egypt as a pledge, Jacob’s sons tell their father that the Egyptian overlord has demanded that their younger brother, Benjamin, must return with them to Egypt. In response, Jacob says:
“Take your brother and go back at once to the man. / And may El Shaddai give compassion for you, before the man, so that he may release to you, your brother, as well as Benjamin.”
From the perspective of Jacob, who has formed his own relationship with the Divine, the hope is that El Shaddai – one of the names for the Divine – will induce the Egyptian overlord (whom the reader knows is Joseph) to show compassion. Significantly, the literal meaning of the name, El Shaddai, which is usually translated as ‘God Almighty’, is ‘God of my breasts’. The noun shad means ‘breast’. So, once again, as with the connection between rachamim, ‘compassion’, and rechem, ‘womb’, the Divine is pictured with a female image.
Nevertheless, it is important that we do not fall into the binary gender trap of splitting the attributes of the Eternal between the ‘masculine’ and ‘feminine’ – in particular, male justice versus female compassion. The crucial point in the dramatic proclamation of all of the complex attributes of the Divine is that the Eternal is omnipotent – all powerful. Both compassion and judgement signify Divine power. As we read a few verses further on in Isaiah chapter 63:
Look down from heaven and see, from Your holy and glorious height! Where is Your zeal, and Your power? Your yearning and Your compassion are being withheld from us.
The Eternal has the power to bestow compassion and to withhold compassion, as the Eternal also has the power to bestow and withhold grace and love – and punishment. Compassion is an attribute of power.
So, what of human beings? The adjective rachum, ‘compassionate’, is used exclusively of the Divine in the Hebrew Scriptures. Interestingly, where the noun rachamim, ‘compassion’, is used, or the Hebrew root for compassion – Reish Chet Mem – is employed in a verbal form, these uses usually evoke Divine action. However, there are examples, where it reflects an asymmetrical power relationship in the human domain. And so, for example, in the First Book of Kings chapter 8, in the midst of King Solomon’s extended plea to the Eternal in the presence of the whole community of Israel at the Feast of Sukkot – Tabernacles – we read:
‘And pardon Your people who have sinned against You for the transgressions they have committed against You. Grant them compassion before their captors that they may be compassionate towards them.’
Just as the Divine has the power to dispense compassion on those who revere the Eternal One, so conquerors have the power to dispense compassion to the conquered – but only because, by definition, the omnipotent Divine has the power to dispose those exercising human power to dispense compassion.
However, there is more to human power than this. We read in the first account of the creation in Genesis chapter 1 that ha-adam, ‘the human’ is created – both male and female – b’tzelem Elohim – ‘in the image of God’ – Elohim; a masculine plural form of another word for God, Elo’ah. Elohim is the most common way of referencing the Divine in the TaNaKh and in Jewish liturgy. It is very intriguing that the one God should be represented by a plural noun – but having taken up your time already with a detour into the ineffable name of the Divine, I’m going to have to resist exploring this. So, to return to the main point: human power is not simply an ad hoc gift of the Divine. The first creation narrative seems to suggest that the human created ‘in the image of God’, is God-like in every respect. In the very next verse we read:
And God blessed them, and God said to them: be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it; and have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over every living thing that creeps upon the earth.
The human has absolute power over the rest of creation. But there are limits to the power of the human. The second account of creation in Genesis chapter 2 makes it clear that being ‘in the image of God’ is not the same thing as being God. The human, whose domain is now confined to a garden, which the human has the responsibility ‘to work and to keep’, is subject to the power of the Divine, and must not transgress the boundaries imposed by the Divine.
Nevertheless, as the narrative of the first human family demonstrates, subject to the power of God, the human, nevertheless, like God, has the power to destroy, as well as to create: Cain kills his brother Abel because God is more favourably disposed to Abel’s offering.
The creation narratives are concerned, by definition, with humanity in general. It is important to note that Jewish teaching begins with the creation of the world and everything in it, including the human. Indeed, the Jewish New Year, Rosh Ha-Shanah, is, according to tradition, harat olam, ‘the birthday of the world’ – and the date reflects the chronologies listed in the Torah. Of course, the world was not created 5776 years ago – 5776 – is the current date, but it is significant that the Jewish calendar begins with the creation of the world and not with the beginnings of the Jewish people.
The Book of Leviticus, by contrast, sets out the specifically Jewish way of negotiating our relationship as human beings with the Divine. Leviticus chapter 19 often referred to as the Holiness Code, which focuses on a host of ethical teachings, including the commandments to love one’s neighbour and to love the stranger, opens with these words:
The Eternal One spoke to Moses, saying: Speak to the entire congregation of the Israelites and say to them: You shall be holy – k’doshim – because I, the Eternal One Your God, am holy – kadosh.
The Hebrew expressions for the sacred – often translated as ‘holy’ – are based on the Hebrew root, Kuf Dalet Shin, to be set apart: that which is sacred is that which is set apart. We read in the Exodus story, just prior to the narrative of Revelation in Exodus chapter 19, this rousing declaration:
Moses went up to God. The Eternal called him from the mountain, saying, “Thus shall you say to the house of Jacob and declare to the children of Israel: / You have seen what I did to the Egyptians, how I bore you on Eagles’ wings and brought you to Me. / Now then, if you will obey me faithfully in keep My covenant, you shall be my treasure among all the peoples. Indeed, all the earth is Mine. / You shall be to Me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation.” These are the words that you shall speak to the children of Israel.
According to the Book of Exodus, the slaves were liberated from slavery in order to serve God. “Let my people go that they may serve Me” is a repeated refrain. And so, we find alongside the narrative of the Exodus and subsequent wanderings, the laws governing the social, economic, civic and political dimensions of society. Divine service is not confined to sacred ritual, it encompasses human relationships. The mitzvot, ‘commandments’ provide a framework for behaviour and action in the family, in the community, and in the wider world, which includes both ritual and ethical dimensions. Moreover, the law codes in the Torah are not simply an adjunct to the narrative. Significantly, although Jews and Christians share the Ten Commandments – known within Jewish tradition as Aseret ha-Dibrot, the Ten Utterances – the way in which the Commandments are read is slightly different. For Christians, the first commandment is, “You shall have no other gods before me.” However, for Jews, the preceding verse constitutes the first Commandment: “I am the Eternal your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery.” According to Jewish teaching, God is a liberator, and created in the image of God, human beings are called to be liberators, too.
At the heart of the mitzvot, commandments, is the notion that the Jew, like the human pictured in the second creation narrative, is subject to the authority of the Divine. But this is only the most obvious aspect of the mitzvot. Just as important, the mitzvot centre on action, on practice. Made in the image of the Divine, like the Divine Creator, human beings are destined to create, to be productive, to act in the world. Of course, the underside of our creative capacity is our capacity for destruction. We act in the world for good and also for ill. The purpose of the mitzvot is to regulate our action in a constructive direction. Thoughts and feelings cannot be controlled and dictated, but behaviour can be regulated. I mentioned earlier, when referring to the attributes of the Divine set out in Exodus chapter 34, that there is a close connection between the Hebrew understanding of compassion, rachamim, and of love, chesed, often translated as ‘loving kindness’. From the perspective of Jewish teaching, while both compassion and love are attributes of the Divine, when it comes to human action, the emphasis is on our responsibility to perform deeds or acts of love. There are two main Hebrew roots designating love, both of which may be used of Divine love and of human love.
The famous phrase taken from the text in Deuteronomy chapter 6 that has become the first paragraph of the liturgical text, the Sh’ma, states: V’ahavta eit Adonai elohekha b’khol l’vav’kha, u’v’khol nafsh’kha, u’v’khol m’odekha: ‘You shall love the Eternal One your God with all your heart, with all your soul and with all your might.’ There is no time now to give you an extended exegesis of this important verse. To be brief, it is important to understand the meaning of the Hebrew. So, the word ‘heart’, leivav, actually designates the ‘mind’, and since there is no sense of the separation of body and soul in the biblical worldview, ‘being’ is a more appropriate translation for nefesh than ‘soul.’ Further, the word for ‘might’, m’od, indicates ‘abundance’. The verse is saying that one should love the Eternal One with all one’s mind, being, and material capacity. So, ‘love’ in this context is not a feeling. By contrast, the identical root for ‘love’ – Aleph Hei Beit – is used to describe Jacob’s feelings for Rachel. We read at Genesis chapter 29: Va-ye’ehav Ya’akov et-Racheil, ‘Jacob loved Rachel.’
When it comes to the other way of expressing love, chesed, which is based on the root letters, Chet Sameikh Dalet, we can also find both human and Divine examples. In the statement of the attributes of the Divine in Exodus chapter 34, we read that the Eternal One is ‘abundant in love’, v’rav-chesed, and also that the Eternal One ‘extends love to the thousandth generation’, notzeir chesed la’alafim. To return, once again to the Jacob story for a human example. When Jacob is about to die, we read in Genesis chapter 47 that ‘he summoned his son Joseph and said to him: “do me this favour, place your hand under my thigh, and commit yourself to love – chesed – and truth on my behalf: please do not bury me in Egypt.”’
Both of these examples of chesed in a Divine and a human context, reveal something very particular about this form of love – that it is intimately connected with deeds. The first rabbis, who interpreted the mitzvot set out in the Torah in order to formulate a framework for Jewish life after the destruction of the Temple by the Romans in 70 CE, identified a particular group of mitzvot, which they called g’milut chasadim, ‘deeds of loving kindness’. In Pirkey Avot, the collection of the wise aphorisms of the first generations of rabbinic sages, which is appended to the Mishnah, the first rabbinic code of Jewish law, edited around the year 200, we read:
Simeon the righteous was one of the last survivors of the Great Assembly. He used to say: ‘the world stands on three pillars: Upon the Torah, and upon avodah – worship – and upon g’milut chasadim –deeds of loving kindness.’
This is the second paragraph of Pirkey Avot. Pirkey Avot is arranged chronologically. The first paragraph states that: “Moses received Torah from Sinai and handed on to Joshua, Joshua to the elders, and the elders to the prophets. And the prophets handed it on to the members of the Great Assembly, K’neset ha-G’dolah.” This is the line of transmission as understood by the rabbis – note the conspicuous absence of any mention of the priests. So, from the mouths of the prophets, with railed against injustice and exhorted the people to act righteously, here we have Simeon the righteous, ‘one of the last survivors of the Great Assembly’ declaring that ‘the world stands on three pillars: Upon the Torah, upon avodah – worship – and upon g’milut chasadim – deeds of loving kindness.’
Let us consider for a moment these pillars of the world. Torah: the source of Divine teaching; avodah – worship: the way in which we practice Divine teaching by acknowledging the Divine; g’milut chasadim – deeds of loving kindness: the way in which we practice Divine teaching through acts of loving kindness towards others. The emphasis is on practice; on what we do rather than what we feel. This is spelt out in the examples delineated in rabbinic literature of g’milut chasadim – of which, hospitality to guests – hachnasat or’chim – and visiting the sick – bikkur cholim – feature among the most important of the regular responsibilities of daily life. The mitzvah of g’milut chasadim is the obligation to do these things: to practice loving kindness towards others in need.
The TaNaKh, in particular, the Torah and the books of the prophets, includes many exhortations to act justly and righteously – chiefly, towards the vulnerable and the marginal – most frequently designated as ‘the stranger, the orphan and the widow.’ For example, we read in the Book of Deuteronomy, chapter 24: “You shall not pervert the justice due to the stranger, or to the orphan; or take the widow’s garment as a pledge; / rather, you shall remember that you were slave in Egypt…” Similarly, Leviticus chapter 19 includes a host of mitzvot that dictate ethical action in all areas of life. It is here that we find the exhortation, not only to love one’s neighbour, but to love the stranger. We read: “When a stranger sojourns with you in your land, you shall not oppress him. / The stranger that dwells with you shall be as the home-born among you, and you shall love him as yourself; for you were strangers in the land of Egypt: I am the Eternal your God.”
V’ahavta – ‘And you shall love’. The same Hebrew word used in connection with love of the Divine in Deuteronomy chapter 6, in the text that became the first paragraph of the Sh’ma, is used, both of love of one’s neighbour and love of the stranger. Of course, love cannot be commanded. The rabbis translated the injunctions to love one’s neighbour and the stranger into g’milut chasadim – deeds of loving kindness towards others, and tz’dakah, righteous action in the economic sphere, often translated as ‘charity’.
But this translation is misleading. The word for charity is based on the Latin word, caritas, which essentially, means love. Tz’dakah by contrast, is based on the root Tzadi Dalet Kuf to act justly or righteously, and is related to the word, tzedek, meaning ‘justice.’ In Deuteronomy chapter 16, in the context of a section dealing with the system of justice and the appointment of judges, we read: Tzedek, tzedek tirdof – ‘Justice, justice you shall pursue.’ Practising the mitzvah of tz’dakah involves participating in putting right the injustice of economic inequality. It is for this reason that the Jewish equivalent to Christian Aid is called Tzedek, an organisation which targets extreme poverty.
While the practice of tz’dakah focuses on the practical alleviation of poverty and the redistribution of wealth, the practice of g’milut chasadim focuses on treating those in need with loving kindness. Both centre on action. The importance of both is conveyed powerfully in a passage from the Book of Isaiah chapter 58, which is read in synagogues across all denominations on the morning of Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement. In the midst of our fasting on Yom Kippur – to be precise, around 18 hours into the fast, when everyone is feeling extremely hungry, we read:
Is this the fast I choose, a day for human beings to afflict themselves? Is it bowing the head like a bulrush and lying in sackcloth and ashes? Do you call that a fast, a day which is favourable to the Eternal One? / Is not this the fast I choose: to release the shackles of injustice, to undo the fetters of bondage, to let the oppressed go free, and to break every chain? / Is it not to share your bread with the hungry, and to bring the homeless poor into your home? When you see the naked, to clothe them, and never to hide yourself from your own kin?
It seems that I have strayed from the subject matter – compassion. Yes and no. Yes, because, as I have indicated, in Jewish teaching compassion is an expression of power – usually, Divine power. On the other hand, as I hope I have demonstrated, the mitzvot, commandments, transferred by the first rabbis from the Torah into a framework of rules for Jewish life, function to regulate human behaviour in the service, of the Divine and of humanity. We read in the Book of Exodus, chapter 23: “Do not oppress a stranger, for you know the nefesh of the stranger, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt.” As I indicated earlier, the literal translation of nefesh is ‘being’. In this verse, the commandment not to oppress the stranger suggests that remembrance of our own experience of oppression might motivate us not to oppress others. However, the fact that injunctions concerning the stranger are repeated in different ways, 36 times in the Torah suggests quite the opposite: that those who have experienced oppression in the past and survived it might be inclined to bury their experience and harden their hearts towards others in need in the here and now. In reality, people react in different ways to their own experience of hardship – some may be more aware of the needs of the marginal and the vulnerable, and others may turn their backs. The point is that we when it comes to people in need, we cannot rely on people’s feelings to do what is right and just. We need rules and regulations to guide us to engage in righteous and ethical conduct.
So, from a Jewish perspective, whether or not we feel compassion towards others, we are required to practice loving kindness towards those in need. This requirement is particularly urgent today in the context of the global refugee crisis. One of the specific expressions of g’milut chasadim identified by the rabbinic sages is pidyon sh’vuyim – ‘redeeming captives.’ Unsurprisingly, given the centrality accorded to the Exodus narrative in Jewish teaching and liturgy, according to the Talmud, ransoming captives is considered, ‘a great commandment’ – mitzvah rabbah – because captivity is worse than starvation or death. Summarising, the Jewish understanding of this ‘great commandment’, the foremost mediaeval Jewish philosopher and codifier, Maimonides, wrote in his code of law, the Mishneh Torah, which was completed in 1180:
The redeeming of captives takes precedence over supporting the poor or clothing them. There is no greater mitzvah than redeeming captives for the problems of the captive include being hungry, thirsty, unclothed, and they are in danger of their lives too. Ignoring the need to redeem captives goes against these Torah laws: “Do not harden your heart or shut your hand against your needy fellow;” “Do not stand idly by while your neighbour’s blood is shed.” And misses out on the following mitzvot: “You must surely open your hand to him or her;” “…Love your neighbour as yourself;” “Rescue those who are drawn to death.” And there is no mitzvah greater than the redeeming of captives.”
The mitzvah of redeeming captives is understood in Jewish texts to apply specifically to Jews who are captives. However, given the emphasis on the just treatment of the stranger in Jewish teaching, the mitzvah of redeeming captives may be extended to encompass all those held in captivity. The imperative takes on a particular resonance today in the context of the millions of people caught up in the deadly conflicts in Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan, Darfur and Eritrea, and elsewhere, who are currently trapped in makeshift refugee camps such as those in Greece and Calais because the richer nations of the world, like Britain, are not prepared to liberate them from their captivity and provide them with a secure refuge. As I mentioned earlier from the perspective of Jewish teaching, the declaration: “I am the Eternal your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery” constitutes the first Commandment. Created in the image of God, human beings are challenged to use our human powers to liberate the oppressed.
As I draw to a close, I would like to clarify the way in which the human being is understood in Jewish teaching. Created in the image of God, the human being is neither good nor evil, but rather is created with the ‘inclination’ to do ‘good’ – yeitzer tov – and the ‘inclination’ to do evil – yeitzer ra. The noun, yeitzer, is based on the Hebrew root, Yud Tzadi Reish, to ‘form.’ It would be straightforward, if one could say that all that is required is that people act on their good inclination and not on their evil inclination. But the Jewish understanding is more subtle and more complex. And so, we read in B’reishit Rabbah, a 6th century collection of rabbinic commentary on the Book of Genesis, in a comment on Genesis 1:31:
‘And God saw all that He had made, and found it very good [tov m’od]. And there was evening and there was morning, the sixth day.’ Nahman said in Rav Samuel’s name: ‘Very good’ refers to the good inclination [yeitzer tov]; and ’very good’ refers to the evil inclination [yeitzer ra]. Can then the evil inclination be very good? That would be extraordinary! But without the evil inclination, however, one would not build a house, marry, beget children, or engage in business.’
By indicating that the drive to construct, produce and create is ‘the evil inclination’ at work undertaking action that is vital to human life, this commentary implies that the good inclination is not, on its own, good enough. The insights of psychoanalysis developed centuries later, but what we read in this passage fits in well with the psychoanalytic notion that human beings are propelled by inner drives – and that the drive to create and destroy are essentially one. The wisdom of the system of mitzvot lies in harnessing all our drives to the practice of righteousness and compassion – not least the performance of g’milut chasadim, deeds of loving kindness.