In the first b’racha of the amidah, Avos, we say "גומל חסדים טובים"... which is normally translated something like- “who does good deeds...” but literally, “Gomel chasadim” by itself means “does good deeds”, so the word “tovim” is extra!

Does anyone have an idea/ sources what the extra word is there for?

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    This is a great question as is, Lo Ani, but a Purim Torah version would also be nice ;) – Josh K Mar 10 '19 at 3:03
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    @JoshK Especially if you read it Bad Chassidim. ;) – ezra Mar 10 '19 at 5:15
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    @ezra, why do I feel like I'm supposed to come up with that PTIJ ? – Noach MiFrankfurt Mar 10 '19 at 5:42

Abudraham says (in the middle of the righthand column here) the phrase is not distinguishing bad chesed from good chesed, but more like neutral chesed (presumably the quid pro quo that) humans do for other humans, vs. divine chesed, which is goodness beyond that standard that God delivers.

גומל חסדים טובים - ע"ש "אֲשֶׁר גְּמָלָם כְּרַחֲמָיו וּכְרֹב חֲסָדָיו". טובים יותר מגמילות חסדי האדם, והוא ע"ש "טוֹב ה' לַכֹּל

bestows good deeds - as in "That He bestowed upon them According to His mercy and His great kindness". Better than human good deeds, which is as in "The LORD is good to all"

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Some thoughts:

  • טוב can be used to mean complete. For example:

    • One of Rashi's explanations of why it says טוב zero times on day 2 of Creation and twice on day 3 is because nothing was completed on day 2, and day 3 had the completion of the creation of day 2 and day 3.

    • One understanding of Chazal in that Moshe's mother saw that he was "טוב" is that he was born circumcised, which means he was already "completed."

    Hashem's חסד is complete - Hashem gives in such a way that we can fully benefit from His gifts. He also allows us to earn our reward, thus making the giving complete in that we don't experience embarrassment or shame in receiving.

  • טוב can mean lasting. The Ramban writes that when Hashem "saw that it was good" in Creation, he saw that it was ראוי להתקיים, fit to persist. Hashem's חסד is permanent, and the reward that we receive is not just a momentary pleasure.

  • חסד is not intrinsically good. As a case in point, sibling incest is described in the Torah as חסד. R' Dessler (Michtav M'Eliyahu vol. 2 pages 165) describes that Yishmael had the Middah of חסד not tempered by גבורה, and it was חסד taken to its illegitimate extreme in which it is a negative force. The חסד that Hashem does for us is purely positive.

  • חסד can be short-sighted. For example, if I do my son's math homework for him every night, he can spend more time playing. But when he fails his math test, my "חסד" won't be so helpful.

    • The Siach Yitzchok seems to take this approach - on the phrase in question, his comment is "תכליתם טוב", that Hashem's חסד is ultimately good and leads to only good.
  • חסד, even from Hashem, can be detrimental. Rabbeinu Peretz in his Maareches HaElokus writes that had Yitzchok followed in the path of his father and worked further on the Middah of חסד, the resulting shift of Hashem's חסד in His relationship with the world would have unbalanced the scales of justice, nullified the existence of retribution, and reduced the opportunity for Avodas Hashem, for which the world was created.

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  • Any source for saying that that's what's meant in the amida? – msh210 Mar 10 '19 at 12:24
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    @msh210 I listed one for one of my explanations - the Siach Yitzchak – Y     e     z Mar 10 '19 at 14:06

This concept is pretty common, that even the good deeds have to have a good measure - too much good for people and you spoil them, for example:

The Torah says (Dvorim 32):

"חֶמְאַת בָּקָר וַחֲלֵב צֹאן עִם־חֵלֶב כָּרִים וְאֵילִים בְּנֵי־בָשָׁן וְעַתּוּדִים עִם־חֵלֶב כִּלְיוֹת חִטָּה וְדַם־עֵנָב תִּשְׁתֶּה־חָמֶר׃ וַיִּשְׁמַן יְשֻׁרוּן וַיִּבְעָט שָׁמַנְתָּ עָבִיתָ כָּשִׂיתָ וַיִּטֹּשׁ אֱלוֹהַ עָשָׂהוּ וַיְנַבֵּל צוּר יְשֻׁעָתוֹ׃

"Curd of kine and milk of flocks; With the best of lambs, And rams of Bashan, and he-goats; With the very finest wheat— And foaming grape-blood was your drink. So Israel grew fat and kicked— You grew fat and gross and coarse— He forsook the God who made him And spurned the Rock of his support.

A similar example is brought in the Midrash () that the gold that Hashem gave the Israelites in Egypt before the Exodus was used later to create the Golden Calf.

Therefore some חסדים can turn out to be actually bad and we pray for Hashem to give only "the good ones".

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  • Any source for saying that that's what's meant in the amida? – msh210 Mar 10 '19 at 12:24

חסד means jealousy/envy in Arabic. Since Hebrew is in the same language family, this suggests that חסדים might not have meant "good deeds", but something more like "desires" or "intentions". So גומל חסדים טובים could have meant something like "do good intentions".

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    Welcome to Mi Yodeya. Can you possibly edit this to clarify precisely how you are using this idea to resolve the question? – Alex Apr 17 '19 at 2:19
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    Thank you for editing your answer. – Alex Apr 17 '19 at 3:05

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