web analytics
April 26, 2015 / 7 Iyar, 5775
At a Glance
Judaism
Sponsored Post


Home » Judaism » Torah »

The Beauty Of Gratitude

YU-021513-Gratitude

Of all the middot tovot that should be part of one’s personality, the central and most paramount is hakrat hatov, the binyan av of all good middot. If one possesses hakarat hatov, all other good characteristics will flow from it; humility, anger management, and a friendly countenance will all emerge from one’s personality. A lack of appreciation for all the good that Hashem, our parents, rebbeim, and friends do for us plagues our community and we should strive to eradicate it from our midst.

The root of the word yehudi means to give thanks. The essence of a being a Jew is having the ability to acknowledge favors people have done for you and to thank them. Moshe Rabbeinu refused to perform the first three plagues, all water-related, because he had been drawn out of the water and saved as a baby. As a result, he felt he couldn’t perform the makkot of dam and tzefardayah, of Blood and Frogs, by hitting the water which had carried him. He also wouldn’t strike the ground to cause kinim, lice, to emerge because he buried the Egyptian he killed in the ground. If we have to show hakrat hatov to inanimate objects, then how much more so must we express gratitude to people who have done good for us.

When the Nazis pillaged Vilna, Rav Gustman zt”l was forced to escape to the forest and be on the run for two years. Six months earlier, Rav Gustman had been walking in the forest with HaRav Chaim Ozer Grodzinski, zt”l. They were speaking in learning and every five minutes, Rav Chaim Ozer would point to a plant and say, “that over there is poisonous and that other plant is fine to eat.” At the time, Rav Gustman thought Rav Chaim Ozer’s behavior was slightly bizarre. However, when he was forced to flee into the forest, he was able to survive using the knowledge about plants Rav Chaim Ozer had taught him. Many years later, when Rav Gustman moved to Eretz Yisrael and opened his yeshiva, Netzach Yisrael, he insisted on watering the bushes outside the yeshiva building. The bochorim implored him, “Rebbi, let us water the bushes.” Rav Gustman resplied, “I have a debt of gratitude to pay to bushes. I must show hakaras hatov, so I will water them myself. They saved me in Europe.”

The Avudraham explains that the reason Modim is the only bracha in Chazaras HaShatz that the tzibbur says is because one cannot give thanks to Hashem through the Sheliach Tzibbur, through a messenger. You have to thank Hashem yourself. It is a personal requirement that does not lend itself to be accomplished through an agent.

HaRav Chaim Shmuelevitz zt”l writes that Eliyahu HaNavi and Elisha felt such outpourings of gratitude to the families that lost their children that Hashem gave them the strength to revive the dead and bring back these children to life. It is only through the middah of hakarat hatov that one could merit receiving this supernatural strength.

The Jewish perspective is not about keeping a scorecard or exercising reciprocity, a quid pro quo. When a person helps us, we must always be makir tov, but not think, “I’ll pay you back, we’re even, and that’s it.” No matter how many times we will have done something for the other person, the feeling of hakarat hatov must always exist. Ammon and Moav saw the relationship between Avraham and Lot this way, Lot went with Avraham to the Land of Canaan and then Avraham redeemed him from captivity making them even. Therefore, in Devarim, when Bnei Yisrael wanted to travel through their land, Ammon and Moav said no. They thought it was all even and there was no reason to show further hakarat hatov. That is not our way – we must always remember and recognize the good another person has done for us.

Also, it is important to point out that there is no statute of limitations when it comes to hakarat hatov The Ksav Sofer relates a teaching of Rashi that Avraham stayed in the same inns when he came back from Mitzrayim as he did when he went down – even though he had become wealthy there. We must never forget those who helped us during our time of need – especially when our life situation changes for the better.

There are times when someone inadvertently does something good for you. Do you have to be makir tov then as well? Rav Chaim Shmuelevitz says yes. He points out that when Moshe Rabbeinu came to the well and Midyan he was able to save the daughters of Yisro. They told their father that an “ish Mitzri” helped them. Moshe chimed in and said, “Do not thank me; rather, thank the ish Mitzri that I killed in Mitzrayim because his death caused me to flee and save you.” The Medrash relates the following mashal: A man is bitten by a wild donkey. The bite leaves a cut which gets infected. The man runs to the lake to clean it out. While there, he sees a baby drowning in the lake. He saves the baby and the baby’s family is ecstatic. They ask how they can thank him. The man responds, “Don’t thank me; thank the wild donkey that bit me; the cut caused me to run to the lake.” We must have hakarat hatov to those who helped us, even those who had no intention of assisting us.

With siyatta d’Shmaya, if we use hakarat hatov as our guiding light in areas of bein adam l’chaveiro we can eradicate disputes and machloket in our community. We can learn to be grateful to Hashem for what we have – and not be kvetchers and complainers about the state of our lives. Let us make this middah a focus and become true mentchen, the way Hashem wants us to be. Thank you for reading.

About the Author: Rabbi David Hirsch serves as rosh yeshiva and holds the Eva, Morris and Jack K. Rubin Memorial Chair in Rabbinics at YU-affiliated Rabbi Isaac Elchanan Theological Seminary.


If you don't see your comment after publishing it, refresh the page.

Our comments section is intended for meaningful responses and debates in a civilized manner. We ask that you respect the fact that we are a religious Jewish website and avoid inappropriate language at all cost.

If you promote any foreign religions, gods or messiahs, lies about Israel, anti-Semitism, or advocate violence (except against terrorists), your permission to comment may be revoked.

No Responses to “The Beauty Of Gratitude”

Comments are closed.

Current Top Story
Children are asleep at last as adults in the Chabad House continue to deal with the crisis in Nepal.
Chabad Co-Emissary in Nepal Hopes for ‘Only Good News’ in Video
Latest Judaism Stories
Torat-Hakehillah-logo-NEW

In her diary, Anne Frank wrote words that provided hope for a humanity faced with suffering.

Leff-042415

The Arizal taught this same approach, making the point that the Torah would never mention wicked people and their sins if there was not great depth involved from which we are to learn from.

Staum-042415

Humility is not achieved when all is well and life is peachy but rather when times are trying and challenging.

In order to be free of the negative consequences of violating a shvu’ah or a neder, the shvu’ah or neder themselves must be annulled.

“I accept the ruling,” said Mr. Broyer, “but would like to understand the reasoning.”

He feared the people would have a change of heart and support Rechavam.

Ramifications Of A Printers Error
‘The Note Holder’s Burden of Proof’
(Kesubos 83b)

Question: If Abraham was commanded to circumcise his descendants on the eighth day, why do Arabs – who claim to descend from Abraham through Yishmael – wait until their children are 13 to circumcise them? I am aware that this is a matter of little consequence to our people. Nevertheless, this inconsistency is one that piques my curiosity.

M. Goldman
(Via E-mail)

In this case one could reason that by applying halach achar harov we could permit the forbidden bird as well.

“What a way to spend a Sunday afternoon,” my husband remarked. “Well, baruch Hashem we are safe, there was no accident, and I’m sure there is a good reason for everything that happened to us,” I mused.

The answer to this question is based on one of the greatest shortcomings of man – self-limiting beliefs.

Myth that niddah=dirty stopped many women from accepting laws of family purity and must be shattered

In every generation is the challenge to purge the culture of our exile from our minds and our hearts

Rabbi Fohrman connects the metzora purification process with the korban pesach.

The day after Israel was declared a State, everyone recited Hallel and people danced in the streets.

More Articles from Rabbi David Hirsch
YU-021513-Gratitude

Modim is the only bracha in Chazaras HaShatz that the tzibbur says is because one cannot give thanks to Hashem through the Sheliach Tzibbur, through a messenger. You have to thank Hashem yourself. It is a personal requirement that does not lend itself to be accomplished through an agent.

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/judaism/torah/the-beauty-of-gratitude/2013/02/14/

Scan this QR code to visit this page online: