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Olam Chesed Yibbaneh -The World  Will Be Built From Love

08/13/2023 08:01:47 PM


There is a beautiful passage that we recite in our morning prayers found on p.68 of our Sim Shalom Siddur.  It is a rabbinic teaching on lovingkindness, "chesed". This paragraph describes a conversation between the great Rabbis Yochanan Ben Zakkai and his disciple Rabbi Joshua as they  lamented the ruins of the Temple. Rabbi Joshua says "Alas for us! The place which atoned for the sins of the people Israel through the ritual of animal sacrifice lies in ruins!". Rabbi Yohanan replies: "Now we must gain atonement through deeds of lovingkindness "g'milut chasadim". How do we know that God prefers deeds of g'milut chasadim (lovingkindness) over sacrifices? Because of this quote from Hosea: "Lovingkindness I desire, not sacrifice". 

As we head into the high holiday season, it is a good time to reflect on what the word "chesed" means and what it might feel like to nurture chesed, lovingkindness in our lives as we approach the Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur. On Shabbat Rabbi Rudin taught us that the month of Elul is a month highlighting the love between God and the Jewish people. The name of the month Elul is interpreted by the Rabbis as an acronym for the verse in Song of Songs: "I am my beloved's and my beloved is mine" ("Ani L'dodi v'dodi Li").  Two songs keep playing in my head. One is the Beatles song "All you need is love". The Jewish soundtrack playing in my head however is the song "Olam Chesed Yibbane" based on the words of Psalm 89:3.  The literal meaning is "I declare,  'Lovingkindess shall be established.'  However, the word "yibbane" implies the ongoing act of "building". One interpretation points out the use of the verb "to build". Tara Mizrahi reflects on the use of the verb "yibbane" (is built) rather than the  verbs make or create: 

"The word ‘built’ suggests the world of kindness on earth is not created by a single utterance but rather it is built like one builds a house - brick by brick, good deed by good deed, prayer by prayer. The way a world of kindness happens is painstaking and deliberate. It requires many hands and much effort and love - even when we tire and feel like quitting."

Likewise, many have interpreted the three words  "Olam Chesed Yibbane" in isolation from the rest of the verse as "God will build (or builds)  the world from love", or "The world will be built from love." 

The song that I can't let go of these last few days as we head into the month of Elul and as we helplessly witnessed on our television screens the horror of the tragic fires in Hawaii is a powerful song written over 20 years ago by Rabbi Menahem Creditor. You can find many different performances on YouTube and elsewhere. Here is one featuring Rabbi Menahem Creditor,  Nesahama Carlebach and other top Jewish performers in a live performance. Olam Chesed Yibbaneh. I hope you are as mesmerized by this song as I have been. 




Thu, February 22 2024 13 Adar I 5784