חן חסד ורחמים

How many times have we heard and sung about Hen חן, Hesed חסד and Rahamim רחמים ? What does it mean? We usually think of them almost as synonyms for compassion, yet I think that there is a deeper reality hidden in these words.

Rahamim רחמים  comes from the root Rehem רחם which means womb.  Rahamim is the compassion that comes from the womb-love of the other. It is deep within us.  It is the deepest of feelings, unconditional love. Thought does not enter into the discussion.  This is the realm of  Briyah בריה, creative emotion of feeling.

Hesed חסד is the loving-kindness that knows no bounds.  It is the bringing up of Rahamim  רחמים into the level where feeling blossoms into thought. While Rahamim רחמים is in the realm of total emotion, Hesed חסד is bringing the compassion into thought, into consciousness.

Hen חן is the actualization of the process.  It starts with Rahamim רחמים, that deep womb chakra, the Yesod יסוד of our humanity. The Rahamim רחמים compassion bubbles up into thought through Hesed חסד.  But now it needs to be brought into the world of interaction. Hen חן is grace, the grace of action.  It is the how to the why of Hesed חסד.

And all of this is brought to light in the Menorah of Hanukah  חנוכה. Hanukah is the holiday of liberation. Hanukah is the liberation through dedication. The word Hanukah חנוכה means dedication and teaches the tale of liberation from Hellenistic assimilation. Our liberation came about through the dedication of the Jewish people. Hanukah teaches us that we liberate ourselves from ‘keeping up with the Jones’’. I don’t have to own more, have more, get more.  What I do have to do is more. I have to do more for others.  And that is the root of the holiday, the root of the word Hanukah חנוכה.

Hanukah חנוכה can be dissected into Hanu חנו  and Kho כה. A translation could be ‘Thusly you should show grace.”  What is the ‘thus?’ In the story of Hanukah there are two aspects.  The first is the willingness to fight for freedom, for religious freedom, for spiritual freedom, the freedom to Jew in our own way. And one of the ways in which we Jew is to reach out, in Tzedakah צדקה, righteous actions toward others.

The second aspect of Hanukah is the rededication, the rededication of the Temple and the rededication of the Temple within.  How do we rededicate ourselves to our principles, our path? One of the most important principles on our path is Hen חן the gracious way in which we bring up the Rahamim רחמים into Hesed חסד and then let it flow into the world.

We light candles to bring light into the world.  We put the candles in a visible place to bring joy and light to others.  And this is the Remez רמז, the ‘key-clue’ to the meaning of Hanu-kah חנו-כה  “thus do we show grace.” By bringing that light into the world through small actions of Tzedakah צדקה, righteousness, aimed outwardly, aimed compassionately towards all sentient beings, to all humanity, to our community, to our tribe, to our family we  ultimately share in the great light symbolized in the lights of Hanukah חנוכה. In this way, we truly celebrate the rededication that is Hanukah.

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