When man has mercy on earth and community, he makes contact with God in the form of an embrace, like Jacob, who cannot bear to see the world crying and thus kisses Rachel and lifts his voice and weeps.
One is also feeling compassion for one's own soul, for the God in one, Who is compelled to go along with one's sojourn on earth.
Therefore, all of a man's deeds should ultimately be the result of compassion for God, even more, perhaps, than being motivated by the love or fear of God.
For one cannot bear to see the world in tears–one must do something.
This level of compassion may thus be considered higher than love.
Unlike love, which chooses its object according to one's own criteria of admiration and affection, compassion has no criteria for its expression, except, perhaps, that its object should indeed be wretched.
To love, there must be some sort of higher emotional consciousness.
In order to feel pity, all that is needed is something or someone in a sorry state.
And, since the world is quite full of such objects of pity, the attribute of compassion is more readily available to one.
Even when one is unable to love God or to fear Him, especially when in a state of desolation, one may, nevertheless, know His compassion by feeling it in oneself and for oneself and the world.
–Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz
From The Long Shorter Way, Ch. 25, by Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz