If I give a non Jew a ride, is that considered a chesed?

I’m sure it’s considered a kiddush hashem but is there a mitzvah of chesed? Should one go out of his way to find these mitzvos of chesed, like one would if they wanted to find a Jew to give a ride to?

Avraham going out of his tent to greet the 3 angels seems to show that chesed applies to all. Not sure.

Looking for some hashkafic/halachic sources on this.

  • Sounds more of a halachic question to me. Why hashkafic?
    – chortkov2
    Jul 4, 2021 at 5:33
  • @chortkov2 because I’m looking more for haskafic explanation/ideas than a Halacha. Didn’t think that there are any halachic issues with it… so wanted a hashkafic idea for why one should specifically do chesed for a non-Jew
    – Moshe
    Jul 4, 2021 at 9:02
  • So your question isn't if mitzvas gemilas chassadim applies to a gentile?
    – chortkov2
    Jul 4, 2021 at 16:59
  • @chortkov2 yes, but more than that. I want to know what the hashkafic reasoning would be to go out of one's way to do a mitzvah for a gentile, etc. Call it halacha or hashkafa.
    – Moshe
    Jul 4, 2021 at 20:03
  • I don't know if giving a non-Jew a ride is considered a chesed, but there may be a problem with doing chesed for a non-jew, of "לא תחנם". See "Is praising non-Jews actually prohibited", and @DonielF's answer to "Befriending a non-Jew". Rambam's Mishneh Torah, Hilkhot Avodah Zarah chapter 10, says: "מפרנסין עניי גויים עם עניי ישראל, מפני דרכי שלום; ואין ממחין ביד עניי גויים בלקט שכחה ופיאה, מפני דרכי שלום. ושואלין בשלומן, ואפילו ביום אידם, מפני דרכי שלום".
    – Tamir Evan
    Jul 5, 2021 at 3:30

4 Answers 4


The Gemara (Shabbos 133b and Sotah 14a) derives from the Torah a mitzvah to emulate Hashem by being kind to others, to be a merciful person just as God is merciful etc. It doesn't differentiate between Jews and non-Jews.

An additional consideration is the complex issue of the prohibition of lo sechanem, doing certain kinds of favors or saying certain kinds of praises about (possibly) certain kinds of non-Jews. There is a disagreement among both the Rishonim and later Poskim if this applies to non-Jews in general, or only to idol worshippers. According to the latter view this prohibition would not be relevant in most cases. Even according to the former view exceptions can often be made for a variety of reasons, including darkei shalom and other principles which greatly limit the practical scope of the prohibition. A Rav is quoted here as arguing that the prohibition only applies in cases where it's being done for no reason (this idea is found in the achronim, see for example the Taz), but doing something to improve your character counts as a valid reason and takes it out of the realm of the prohibition altogether even according to the more stringent view. In his words,

Decent Jews are kind hearted and polite to everybody! אמרו עליו על רבן יוחנן בן זכאי שלא הקדימו אדם שלום מעולם – It was said about Rabbi Yochanan ben Zakai that nobody ever said shalom to him in the street before he said shalom to them. He was the first one to greet a man. ואפילו נכרי בשוק – even gentiles in the street; when he encountered a gentile, he was the first one to greet him. That’s politeness. That’s how a Jew behaves. ...The truth is that Jews are always kind hearted to everybody; only that the mitzvah of loving a Jew is a specific mitzvah that’s only for fellow Jews. You don’t have that mitzvah for anybody else.

But to be kind and polite, that’s not even a question. It’s not an issur of lo sechanem. Lo sechanem means to do favors for nothing; that you don’t do. However, for your own benefit, favors for your own character you can do. And anything you do for gentiles that improves your character, it’s a good thing to do because you’re doing it for yourself.

Wherever this consideration does not apply, the default would be as the Gemara instructs, to emulate God by being kind to everyone.

  • 1
    I don’t really understand what “doing it for nothing” would mean. Isn’t any chesed for the sake of chesed and improving ones character, even if it’s not the direct intention? Does this mean that the person has to have a reason intended?
    – Moshe
    Jul 6, 2021 at 1:18
  • "Lo sechanem means to do favors for nothing; that you don’t do". That seems like a chidush of R. Avigdor Miller (the Rav quoted in the linked article). Is there a source for this? It could render lo sechanem meaningless. Most discussion I'm aware of centers on which non-Jews are included in lo sechanem. Rabban Yochanan ben Zakai's action could be understood as an application of darkei shalom (as the Mishneh Torah says "ושואלין בשלומן, ואפילו ביום אידם, מפני דרכי שלום").
    – Tamir Evan
    Jul 7, 2021 at 3:19
  • @TamirEvan The general principle that when you benefit it's not considered lo sechanem is not his chiddush, there are Achronim who say it. The specific application of that principle to include spiritual benefit may be his own chiddush.
    – Jay
    Jul 7, 2021 at 3:37
  • @TamirEvan ...see for example sefaria.org/…
    – Jay
    Jul 7, 2021 at 3:47
  • @TamirEvan If someone is in need of assistance, for example they need a ride, that would qualify as being good for you spiritually to do, but to give a gift to a random person is not a spiritually meaningful act and would not qualify. So while it would indeed limit lo sechanem, it does not render it meaningless.
    – Jay
    Jul 7, 2021 at 3:53

Mishnah Peah, chapter 1, mishnah 1

These are the things that have no definite quantity: The corners [of the field]. First-fruits; [The offerings brought] on appearing [at the Temple on the three pilgrimage festivals]. The performance of kind deeds; And the study of the torah.

  • This doesn't answer the question. The premise was that chessed is a mitzvah; the question was whether this applies to gentiles too.
    – chortkov2
    Jul 4, 2021 at 21:01
  • 2
    @chortkov2 The Mishnah quoted, which is the halacha, says acts of kindness have no measure, meaning they are without limit. Acts of kindness aren’t defined by Jew or non-Jew and for that matter aren’t even limited to acts between human beings. Kindness means to be sympathetic, helpful and beneficent. Jul 4, 2021 at 21:56
  • @chortkov2 And just to emphasize, when the OP asks, when I give a non-Jew a ride is it considered a chesed, the assumption is that the non-Jew needs a ride somewhere. The OP demonstrates sympathy for the non-Jews condition and behaves in a helpful manner. That is by definition chesed/kindness. The halachic source for this is from the Mishnah quoted. Jul 4, 2021 at 22:07
  • @Yaacov Deane, I was more thinking if I should go out of my way to do a chesed for a non Jew. To let’s say go out to supermarket and see if a non Jew needs a ride. Something like that. Not necessarily that I see someone who needs a ride.
    – Moshe
    Jul 5, 2021 at 0:06
  • 1
    @Moshe I’m not sure what you are trying to emphasize. Are you talking about making a special trip when you wouldn’t be, like a community service type of thing? Or is your emphasis specifically reaching out to a non-Jew? That depends a lot more on your specific situation and who you are reaching out to. But the general idea of kind acts is undifferentiated. It’s about increasing acts of kindness in the world without limit. Not surprisingly, that was one of the last directives the Lubavitcher Rebbe gave. Increase in acts of kindness. Jul 5, 2021 at 1:31

R Avrohom Ehrman addresses your question in his book The laws of interpersonal relationships, p. 6, and writes that, although the commandment of love applies only to fellow Jews, the traits of love and kindness that are inherent in the mitzvah carry over to all human beings.

He brings a number of sources to back this up

  • The LORD is good to all, and His mercy is upon all His works. (Psalms 145:9)
  • Our Sages commanded us to visit the gentiles when ill, to bury their dead in addition to the Jewish dead, and support their poor in addition to the Jewish poor for the sake of peace. (Rambam MT Melachim 10:12)
  • They said about Rabban Yoḥanan ben Zakkai that no one ever preceded him in issuing a greeting, not even a non-Jew in the marketplace, as Rabban Yoḥanan would always greet him first. (Brakhot 17a)

He concludes that "a Torah personality acts pleasantly and with a peaceful demeanor to everyone".

As such, it appears it would be good personality training to be kind to everyone (see Sefer HaChinuch on mitzva 16 on how our actions change our personality) even if it is not a formal commandment.


Below is a synopsis from halachapedia on the topic of returning a lost item to a non jew. I would imagine the same halacha would apply to the mitzvah of chesed (i.e. according to Rashi it would be prohibited as it shows one is doing it not necessarily for the mitzvah)

Tur and S”A C”M 266:1 rule based on GemaraBaba Kama 113b that there’s no mitzvah to return the lost object of a non-Jew and there’s even a prohibition. The Beit Yosef there writes that according to Rashi the problem is that by returning an item to a non-Jew, you are showing that you don't perform Hashavat Aveda as a commandment of Hashem, because you are returning to a non-Jew which you aren't commanded to. On the other hand, the Rambam writes that returning such an object would be strengthening the hands of a sinner. The Be'er HaGolah 266:2 writes that according to Rashi this prohibition would apply even to non-Jews nowadays but according to the Rambam then there’s no prohibition to non-Jews nowadays who believe in a Creator and are law abiding citizens. Mamon Yisrael (Halachos of Others People’s Money by Rav Bodner, pg. 153) holds that there’s no prohibition nowadays. However, Hashava Aviedah KeHalacha (2:1 pg. 33) writes that nowadays there’s a prohibition like S”A.

However, in an instance of Kiddush Hashem there are other considerations.

Halachos of Other People's Money pg. 156. S”A C”M 266:1 writes that if one has intent to make a Kiddush Hashem then it’s totally permissible and praiseworthy to return the lost object. Hashava Aviedah KeHalacha (2:2 pg. 33) writes that it’s only permissible and praiseworthy if one is sure that returning it will result in Kiddush Hashem because the owner will praise Jews and not just the one who returned it (and if it’s a doubt one should refrain). see Rabbi Aharon Ziegler who quotes Rabbi Soloveitchik on the importance of returning a lost object to a non-Jew in fulfillment of the precious mitzvah of kiddush Hashem. see also Ten Minute Halacha: Hashavas Aveida to a nochri by Rabbi Aryeh Lebowitz

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