Compassion and loving-kindness are the noble attributes by which man likens himself to his Creator1. By performing the benevolent acts of Gemilut Chassadim man brings to the fore the Divine Image in which he was created. Gemilut Chassadim is the great principle of imitatio De-i, the "imitation of G‑d" that man is commanded to effect as his chief aim in life2.

It is significant to note that the principle of imitatio De-i is a mitzvah (a command and precept) all on its own3. We follow the ways of G‑d by imitating the Divine attributes of showing compassion and extending loving-kindness, by Gemilut Chassadim. The specific acts of Gemilut Chassadim, however, are classified under other mitzvot, independent of the mitzvah of imitatio De-i. Some codifiers regard most of the specific acts of Gemilut Chassadim (enumerated above) as distinct mitzvot of the Torah4. Others include them in the comprehensive mitzvah of "you shall love your fellow as yourself" (Leviticus 19:18) 5.

There are thus two aspects to Gemilut Chassadim:

a) The precept of the act itself, expressing itself in the extension of assistance to others who are in need; and

b) the precept to attain the effect of the act, expressing itself in the sublimation of the self by means of that act.

In a general sense these two aspects apply to all mitzvot. Every mitzvah has its own, individual rationale, purpose and effect. Beyond that, however, all mitzvot effect also a general refinement and sublimation of man6. Conversely, too, every transgression is to violate a specific mitzvah, and also causes an overall spiritual defilement and obtuseness7.

This reflexive characteristic of the mitzvot is noted especially with reference to charitable acts, as it was said: "the poor man does more for his benefactor than the latter does for him8."

Aside of this implicit refinement, however, there remains also the specific mitzvah of self-sublimation by means of imitatio De-i. This latter mitzvah can be fulfilled only by inculcating and establishing in ourselves the traits of limitless compassion and absolute loving-kindness (Gemilut Chassadim).