Of all communal organisations, which are the most sacred?
In Parshat Vayechi, we read how Yaakov was preparing for his death. He told Yosef his son,
“Ve’asita imadi chessed v’emet.” – “Please practise kindness and truth with me when I have passed away.” (Bereishit 47:29)
Now, what did Yaakov mean? Chessed, lovingkindness, infers going the extra mile in order to engage in acts of compassion. Emet, truth, means that you must do what is right, and that is all. So, on the one hand he’s saying, ‘do the right thing,’ while on the other hand he’s saying, ‘go the extra mile.’
Sefer Panim Yafot explains beautifully. Yaakov was saying to Yosef that he should do what is right, the emet: in this case, as a child, he would have a responsibility to bury his father. In addition to that, Yaakov was saying, “I would love you to engage in chessed.” – I would love you to go the extra mile in order to take my remains back to the Holy Land so that I can be buried together with my ancestors.
This term, ‘chessed v’emet’ is the slogan of every single Chevra Kadisha organisation in the world. Indeed it is the Chevra Kadisha (translated as Sacred Society) which, to my mind, is definitely the most precious of all of our communal organisations: simply extraordinary men and women who in their separate divisions look after people once they have physically passed away.
Within our communities, we are blessed to have their ‘chessed v’emet.’ First of all, they do what is right, to guarantee that every person will have a burial, and in addition, the chessed that they apply, their acts of lovingkindness, going the extra mile with such devotion to those who have passed away and to their families, is always something very remarkable for us to witness.
Their kindness is of the ultimate form because the person to whom they are showing kindness will not be able to repay it in any way. It’s absolutely sincere – it comes from the heart and it is in the finest tradition and spirit of our faith.
You probably don’t even know who the members of your Chevra Kadisha are. That’s the spirit in which they are operating. They don’t do it for any thanks, but let’s ensure, as communities, that we do always express our full gratitude to these most wonderful people.