Why does performing acts of kindness give us a positive feeling?

Avraham Avinu is the source of kindness in the world, as stated by the prophet Micha (7:20), “You shall give the truth of Yaakov and the kindness of Avraham”. Avraham Avinu busies himself with welcoming guests that he does not know at all; He seeks out the guests himself; Avraham Avinu is concerned with and davens for the people of Sodom, despite the fact that on the surface of it there was no room for mercy; Avraham concerns himself with Lot his nephew in a fashion that arouses wonderment.

Aside from the fact that Avraham at his core is a man of kindness, one who chases after kindness, the Torah teaches us an additional point regarding Avraham (Bereishit 18:19):

“For I have known him for he commands his sons and his household  after him, to keep the way of Hashem to do righteousness and justice (tzedaka and mishpat)…”

Avraham Avinu is searching for the way of Hashem. Avraham Avinu is exploring the way of Hashem, and trying to follow it. The Gemara says that it is appropriate to do acts of kindness, in order to emulate the attributes of HaKadosh Baruch Hu (Sotah 14a):

And Rabbi Chama the son of Rabbi Chanina said, “What does the verse mean, “Follow after Hashem your G-d” (Devarim 13:5)? Is it possible for man to actually follow after the Divine Presence? Does it not say, “For Hashem your G-d is like a consuming fire” (Devarim 4:24)! Rather, it means to emulate the attributes of HaKadosh Baruch Hu, just as He clothes the naked, as it is written, “And Hashem Elokim made for Adam and his wife leather garments and he clothed them (Bereishit 3:21), so too, you should clothe the naked; HaKadosh Baruch Hu visited the sick, as it is written, “And Hashem appeared to him in the Plains of Mamre” (Bereishit 18:1), so too, you should visit the sick; HaKadosh Baruch Hu comforted the mourners, as it is written, “And it was after the death of Avraham and Elokim blessed Yitzchak his son” (Bereishit 25:11), so too, you should comfort mourners; HaKadosh Baruch Hu buried the dead, as it is written, “And He buried him in the valley” (Devarim 34:6), so too, you should bury the dead. 

HaKadosh Baruch Hu clothes the naked, visits the sick, comforts mourners, and buries the dead. So too us: We need to emulate the attributes of HaKadosh Baruch Hu. Apparently, the idea the Gemara is teaching us is that since these are the attributes of HaKadosh Baruch Hu, they are good traits, and it follows that it is appropriate to emulate these traits.

It is also possible to understand this on a deeper level. HaKadosh Baruch Hu created man in His image, b’tzelem Elokim. That means that latent in every one of us there are divine qualities. The Gemara teaches us, that HaKadosh Baruch Hu does kindness, comforts mourners, and the like, and in so doing it teaches us that these qualities are natural to us, they are a tangible part of us.

This quality gives us a unique strength to do kindness. We do not need to acquire from outside ourselves traits of kindness. Rather, we need to reveal the qualities of kindness that exist within us.

The Rambam (Megilla V’Chanuka 2:17) writes that the greatest joy is to gladden others, to make the poor happy:

It is better for one to increase gifts to the poor, matanot la’evyonim, than for one to increase his meal and sending gifts to his friends, his mishloach manot, for there is no greater and splendid joy than to gladden the hearts of the poor, the orphans, the widows and the converts, for one who gladdens the heart of these cheerless people is likened to the Divine Presence, as it is stated, “To revive the spirit of the downtrodden and to enliven the hearts of the despondent” (Yeshayahu 57:15).

Why is the cause of the greatest joy gladdening others?

One can assume that when one finds himself in the presence of sad people, it is sad for them, too. But if he gladdens them, everyone becomes happy, which also includes him. But, in order to be happy, one doesn’t need to make others happy. One simply needs to go to a place where people are happy!

Why is there a special happiness when gladdening others? We explained previously, that HaKadosh Baruch Hu created us in His likeness, with Divine qualities. And we saw, that HaKadosh Baruch Hu has an attribute of kindness. That being the case, kindness is something natural to us. Therefore, when one performs kindness and gladdens others, they utilize their own natural qualities, and it follows that they become more complete and happier.

There is an additional explanation why one who brings happiness to others will be happier himself. One may feel a low sense of self-worth, yet when he gladdens others, one uncovers renewed strength and understands that they possess more power than they previously thought. This results in great happiness, the ability to help others more, and to be even happier.

Avraham Avinu- is the source of kindness in the world. Avraham Avinu searches for the will of G-d, and understands that the will of G-d fits our natural qualities. Avraham invests in kindness, but it is clear from all the parshiyot that it is kindness that enlivens Avraham. We shall strive to walk in the path of G-d, in the path of Torah and good deeds, in the path of kindness and justice, “’For I Hashem does kindness, justice and righteousness in the land- for these I yearned,’ such is the word of G-d.” (Yirmiyahu 9:23)

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