I

l. Every one is liable to the obligations of tzedakah and Gemilut Chassadim. Even the poor man who is supported by tzedakah must give tzedakah from what he can spare from his upkeep. And surely everyone is able-thus obligated-to perform Gemilut Chassadim1.

2. There is no limit to the obligations of Gemilut Chassadim that are performed by personal involvement. That is to say, there is no measure of observance of which one can say that the duty has been discharged. This applies not only to the principle of Gemilut Chassadim as a whole, but to every particular detail of this precept.

3. Everything done for the sake of G‑d is to be of the finest and the best. For example, when building a House of Prayer it should be finer than one's private dwelling. Likewise, when feeding the hungry, one is to give them of the best and sweetest of one's table. When clothing the naked, one is to give them of the finest garments; and so forth.

II

4. The duty to lend money to one who is in need of it is more meritorious, and takes precedence over, the duty to give charity to one who begs for it; for the one has already been driven to begging while the other has not yet reached that stage. Severe, indeed, is the censure of the Torah against the one who withholds a loan from the poor2.

5. It is a duty to lend money even to the wealthy in need of a loan, and to assist them with words of encouragement and advice.

6. One is forbidden to press a debtor when you know that he is unable to repay the debt. Moreover, it is forbidden to appear before a debtor, or even to pass before him, even without making any demands upon him, lest the debtor be frightened or shamed.

7. No Jew may accept interest, or pay interest, for a loan from another Jew.

III

8. The duty of providing hospitality is fulfilled by supplying the guests with food, drink, shelter, and by escorting them on their way.

9. The duties related to the principle of hospitality are learned from the classical example of our patriarch Abraham, as related in the Torah in Genesis 18:2ff.:

a) Do not wait until itinerants come to you, but seek them out and bring them to your home;

b) Provide your guests with all their needs;

c) Provide your guests with a comfortable place to rest and recover from the weariness of their journey;

d) Tend to the needs of the guests personally, even if you have many servants, and treat them as if they were your masters;

e) Say and promise little, but do a lot;

f) Teach the members of your household, and impress upon them, the importance of this mitzvah; g) escort the guests on their way.

10. The dangers of the road no longer lurk nowadays as they did in olden times. Nonetheless, nowadays, too, it is meritorious to escort and guide strangers on their way, even if it be but for a short distance.

IV

11 .The mitzvah of visiting the sick refers to any sick person, whether poor or rich, related to you or not.

12. All are duty bound to visit the sick. Even a person of prominence must visit a less important person.

13. The visitation of the sick should be frequent, where possible even several times a day, provided that one does not inconvenience the sick. If visitation is an inconvenience to the patient, one is still obligated to perform the other duties related to this mitzvah (see next paragraph).

14. The mitzvah of visiting the sick consists of three essential parts:

a) To see and ensure that the patient is properly tended;

b) To comfort and cheer the patient;

c) To pray for the patient's recovery.

V


15. It is a duty to cause brides and bridegrooms to rejoice, and especially to provide the poor with all their needs for their wedding.

16. One should join in the processions conducting bride and groom to the canopy and to cheer them. Even the study of Torah is suspended for the performance of this duty.

VI

17. When a person dies, Heaven forbid, all the townspeople are prohibited from going about their occupations until the burial has taken place. If there are designated people who will attend to the obsequies, however, all others may carry on their work.

18. The services to be rendered to the dead are a) guarding, b) removing, c) cleansing, d) dressing, e) accompanying and f) burying the body.

19. Even where there is a Burial Society it is a mitzvah to attend to the dead and partake in the funeral procession.

VII

20. Mourners are to be visited and to be comforted.

21. When visiting mourners one should not offer words of sympathy and comfort until one sees that the mourners desire it, and generally not inconvenience them.

22. The duty of comforting mourners takes precedence over the duty of visiting the sick, because comforting mourners is an act of benevolence toward both the living and the dead.

VIII

23. It is a duty to seek and pursue peace, and to reconcile those that are at variance.

24. Aaron the High Priest is the classical example of the peacemaker and the teacher of the ignorant. Thus it was taught: "Be of the disciples of Aaron, loving peace and pursuing peace, loving mankind and drawing them to the Torah." (Avot 1:12) Aaron went out of his way to make peace and reconcile those at variance. With respect to other precepts man is only under the obligation to perform them when they come his way; as for peacemaking, however, it is written "seek peace and pursue it" (Psalms 34:15), i.e., anywhere3.

IX

25. "Drawing them to Torah" means that one is to influence people to, and lead them under, the wings of the Shechinah (the Divine presence). Aaron used to go to all the homes of Israel and whoever did not know how to read the Shema or how to pray, he would teach him. Likewise, he would teach anyone who did not know how to learn Torah. Thus, too, it is the duty of all those who know Torah to teach and guide the ignorant.

26.Whoever is subject to the command to study Torah is also commanded to teach Torah. The duty to teach relates not only to one's children but to anyone.