The Meaning of Hesed

The Meaning of Hesed

imagesThe meaning of ḥesed has been illuminated by the important study of Sakenfeld (1978). She lists the following characteristics in her definition of ḥesed: (1) ḥesed is an action rather than simply an attitude or a psychological state, and the action involved is usually one of deliverance or protection; (2) an act of ḥesed is based upon and performed in an existing relationship; (3) ḥesed is an action requested or expected of someone who is situationally or circumstantially superior to another who lacks power or resources to perform the desired action; (4) ḥesed is extralegal and cannot be coerced; the situationally superior party cannot be compelled to act and remains free not to perform the needed act of ḥesed; and (5) ḥesed is an act which fulfills an essential need that the person in need cannot meet, and for which there is no alternative source of assistance.