The story is told of the gentleman who was on the phone to his friend, back in the days when the operator had to connect you.

"Chaim, can you lend me ten pounds?"

"Sorry, Yankel, I can't hear you—it's a bad line."

"I said, can you lend me ten pounds?"

"Still can't hear you. Speak more slowly."

"Can you please lend me ten pounds?"

"I'm really sorry, can't hear a word—perhaps try calling me back later?"

At this point, the operator interjected: "I can hear him just fine."

To which Chaim replied, "Well, you lend him the ten pounds then!"

In this week's Torah reading, Re'eh, the Torah tells us about the different animals, birds and fish which we are allowed to eat. We are told which species are kosher and which are not. There is a tradition in Judaism that we very much are what we eat, and that those kosher species which we are permitted to eat have characteristics which we would like to emulate.

One of the birds which is described in this week's reading is the chassidah, the stork. The name comes from the same root as the word chessed, meaning "kindness," in Hebrew. The Talmud tells us that this bird is called the chassidah "because she is benevolent toward her own kind."

Why then is she a non-kosher bird? Surely this is a good trait to emulate?

The Kotzker Rebbe explains that the problem lies in her being "benevolent toward her own kind." That is all very well and good, but what about others who are not "her kind"?

In a similar manner, we all want to help out our friends and family, to be kind and generous and charitable. Let us not forget, though, that true kindness and charity do not discriminate between our own social or family group and others, but manifest themselves as much with a stranger as with our own nearest and dearest. This is a type of kindness we learn from our forefather Abraham, whom the Torah tells us excelled in the attribute of kindness, as we say in our daily prayers.

This is a much harder level to strive for, yet this is the lesson of this week's parshah. You want to be nice and kind to your friends, the people you like, whom you have a relationship with? That's fine, but this is not enough to become kosher—to do that, one needs to treat outsiders the same way as one's friends and family. This is the ultimate chessed: unconditional kindness directed at others, irrespective of their status or personal relationship to us.