Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Can Chesed Be Bad?

Is Chesed found in a negative context?

יז  וְאִישׁ אֲשֶׁר-יִקַּח אֶת-אֲחֹתוֹ בַּת-אָבִיו אוֹ בַת-אִמּוֹ וְרָאָה אֶת-עֶרְוָתָהּ וְהִיא-תִרְאֶה אֶת-עֶרְוָתוֹ, חֶסֶד הוּא--וְנִכְרְתוּ, לְעֵינֵי בְּנֵי עַמָּם; עֶרְוַת אֲחֹתוֹ גִּלָּה, עֲו‍ֹנוֹ יִשָּׂא.

17 And if a man shall take his sister, his father's daughter, or his mother's daughter, and see her nakedness, and she see his nakedness: it is a shameful thing; and they shall be cut off in the sight of the children of their people: he hath uncovered his sister's nakedness; he shall bear his iniquity.
In the quote above (Leviticus 20:17) Chesed is translated as "a Shameful thing". This is also how almost all the commentators explain the phrase (Onkelos translates it as "Kalona") See also the following two quotes from Proverbs  14:34 and Proverbs 25:10  -

לד  צְדָקָה תְרוֹמֵם-גּוֹי;    וְחֶסֶד לְאֻמִּים חַטָּאת.34 Righteousness exalteth a nation; but sin is a reproach to any people.

י  פֶּן-יְחַסֶּדְךָ שֹׁמֵעַ;    וְדִבָּתְךָ, לֹא תָשׁוּב.10 Lest he that heareth it revile thee, and thine infamy turn not away
Clearly Chesed can mean shameful or disgusting act. However, I have no explanation why the word has two opposite meanings, but would be delighted if anyone can help.

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