I’d like to speak about the supreme importance of showing gratitude, hakaros hatov, in the course of our daily life. This is not a new concept to my educated readership. For instance, we are taught often that Moshe Rabbeinu did not initiate the plague of blood against the Nile, nor did he bring about the plague of frogs, because of his appreciation to the waters for saving him when, as a baby, Yocheved placed him there in his little ark. Similarly, Moshe did not smite the sand to convert it to lice because he was grateful to the earth for hiding the body of the Egyptian he slew. From these, we extrapolate that if we are expected to show appreciation even to inanimate objects then, of course, all the more so we should show our recognition to friends and associates who knowingly benefit us.
However, today I would like to take this subject from the theoretical to the practical. How should we inject the vital lesson of hakaros hatov into our daily lives? My first rebbetzin, Miriam Libby (her neshama should have a great aliya), had a simple but very effective method. She used greeting cards – and they don’t have to be the expensive Hallmark variety. They can be the 99-cent variety. (Save buying the expensive ones for a spouse or parent!) Miriam Libby bought a bunch at a time and sent them as tokens of appreciation. It might have been to the superintendent of the shul who did a good job, or to the postman who delivered our mail timely – even in bitter harsh weather. Next time you go into the drugstore or 99-cent store, pick up a few cards. Think who you can send one to in order to say, “that was a job well done,” or, “how thoughtful you are,” or simply, “it’s great to have you as a friend.” (As a word of caution, generally one should send a card only to those of the same gender or send it in the name of the family.)
If you want to test your hakaros hatov acumen, check out your attitude to the weekly baal korei, the one who reads the Torah on Shabbos. Are you one of those who pounce when he makes a slight error? I personally cringe when I hear the harsh tones people use to correct the baal korei. I recommend the following good idea for every congregation. A person shouldn’t be allowed to correct the baal korei unless he is ready to do the job the next week. After all, we have the gabboim on the sides of the Torah and the Rabbi in the front to make the corrections. When we hone our sense of appreciation, we would consider that, while we have a pleasant Friday night sleep or a delightful time with our family, the baal korei is sweating it out time and time again preparing the Torah reading for our benefit. The correct attitude is to go over to him and say ‘I really appreciate your effort. Thank you for giving of your time for all of us.’
What about when your child has been struggling at math for the last few semesters but today comes home with a 90% on a midterm. Of course, the good parent praises and rewards the child for a job well done. But, what about the math teacher who turned your child around? We are quick to complain when something is awry in our children’s education. Doesn’t the educator deserve a phone call or a note for a job well done? And, what about the Rebbe who generates a zest for learning in your child? Or the mechaneses who ignites in your daughter a spirit or yiras shamayim? A tasteful gift is a beautiful way to express your heartfelt thanks.
The global Daf Yomi community will, iy”H, soon have the pleasure of finishing Masechtas Nedarim. While it is elementary that the talmidim, disciples, should show gratitude to their teacher, there is another area of appreciation that is sometimes neglected. When a man finishes an entire masechta, he has the great sense of fulfillment of accomplishing one of life’s greatest achievements. But he should actively recognize that he has a partner in this accomplishment; namely his wife. And, he wouldn’t be able to do it without her backing and sacrifice. It is important for him to articulate this to her and share his simcha with her. Such ideas as taking a wife out to dinner to celebrate a siyum or buying her a gift at the conclusion of a tractate are excellent examples of meaningful hakaros hatov.
In the merit of our expressions of thanks, may wonderful friends always surround us and may Hashem bless us with good health, happiness and everything wonderful.