Torah.org Home Subscribe Services Support Us
 

Gratitude

by Rabbi Berel Wein

One of the basic values of Judaism is hakarat hatov – the gratitude to others for favors and help extended to one. This concept is even embodied in the relationship of a Jew with one’s Creator. Ingratitude towards the Creator Who has granted us life and all of its attendant benefits is reckoned as being a primary sin of attitudes and bad values in Jewish ethical thought.

We find in the Torah that our father Avraham and his descendants were and are held to account for Avraham having said to God: “What are you giving me?” when Avraham entreated God for a child. Part of the rationale for the principle in Jewish life, as articulated in the Ten Commandments itself, of honoring one’s parents is really only an extension of this concept of appreciation and gratitude – again to those who have given us life and in most instances raised us and protected us from misfortune.

And, furthermore, Judaism does not view this debt of gratitude owed as being a one-time event. There is an ever-continuing debt of gratitude owed that does not automatically expire because of changing times and circumstances. And in the eyes of Jewish thought this is even a value and concept that transcends generations.

My children, if they are aware of others’ past favors to me, are also bidden to acknowledge that goodness and to attempt to repay it in kind. There are numerous incidents in the Talmud that point out this intergenerational obligation and attitude of gratitude.

Last week an Arab Israeli here in Israel was arrested for plotting and almost executing a mass murder of Jewish Israelis – civilians whom he did not know and had done him no personal harm. It was revealed that the young daughter of this would-be terrorist and potential murderer had, only three weeks earlier, undergone life saving surgery at Hadassah Hospital in Jerusalem. This surgery was performed gratis of the State of Israel and by an expert group of Jewish medical personnel.

One would have thought that a shred of decency, a whiff of gratitude, would have swayed this admitted plotter to kill innocents, to refrain from his nefarious intents. But, hatred warps all correct logical and emotional response to situations such as this one.

Proud to be a martyr for his understanding of his faith and devoted to his hatred of Jews, there is no room left in his psyche and soul to consider, in the light of gratitude, what his attitude and behavior towards Israeli Jews should be.

American Jews, well meaning and naïve in the extreme, raised fifteen million dollars to purchase from the UN relief organizations the green houses and hothouses of the great Israeli agricultural achievement of Gush Katif on the borders of Hamas’ Gaza. The Hamas-led rioters destroyed this infrastructure completely and willfully on the specious claim that they did not want to be beholden to Jewish generosity.

Needless to say, none of the hothouses or greenhouses has ever been rebuilt five years later. Only complaints and false weeping about being under siege and remaining impoverished emanates from official Gaza. It is difficult to make peace with people who do not have within themselves any sense whatever of the necessary proprietary emotion of gratitude towards others for help rendered to them.

The prophets of Israel long ago lamented the lack of gratitude that Jews exhibited towards their Creator. God says to them in a manner of speaking: “You took the gifts of wealth and life that I granted you and used them to fashion idols and promote evil.” It is not only the idols and evil that God complains about, so to speak. It is the sheer audacious cold hearted ingratitude that drives that behavior and brings down God’s wrath against the people.

The prophet Yeshayahu points out that even in the animal world the domesticated animal recognizes its owner and provider of food and care. But “my people knew not” and thus that ingratitude led to the destruction of the Temple and Jewish exile and dispersion. There is an element of ingratitude involved in the relationship of certain segments of our current society to the temporal State of Israel.

Is it not unseemly to take sustenance and benefits galore from the State and yet curse and revile it at the very same moment? How does that square up with Jewish values and true Torah behavior? A person with a sense of gratitude can feel contented and full with one’s lot in life. The ungrateful ones always feel deprived, frustrated and angry at the world and everyone else. We should all learn to say a proper thank you at correct occasions and to really mean it.


 






ARTICLES ON VAYEITZEI AND CHANUKAH:

View Complete List

The Hasmoneans Take a Stand: A History of Chanukah, Part II
Rabbi Yehudah Prero - 5774

The Merit of 20 Years of Honest Work Surpassed the Merit of the Forefathers
Rabbi Yissocher Frand - 5774

“So you Think You’re The Man, Alexander?” (Insights for Chanukah)
Jon Erlbaum - 0

ArtScroll

Seeking Yitzchak
Rabbi Aron Tendler - 5765

Fourteen Sleepless Years
Rabbi Naftali Reich - 5770

Every Little Bit Counts
Rabbi Yehudah Prero - 5763

Frumster - Orthodox Jewish Dating

Torah Study - - Doing It Our Way
Rabbi Eliyahu Hoffmann - 5766

If Hashem Said to Go, You Go!
Rabbi Yisroel Ciner - 5758

Profit from Loss, Light from Darkness
Rabbi Yehudah Prero - 5762

Looking for a Chavrusah?

Giving it All We Have
Rabbi Eliyahu Hoffmann - 5762

Sheepish Leadership
Rabbi Mordechai Kamenetzky - 5756

Good and Bad Company
Shlomo Katz - 5768

> It's Good For You
Rabbi Moshe Peretz Gilden - 5763

It Can Only Hurt Not to Ask
Rabbi Yaakov Menken - 5758

Be Patient!
Shlomo Katz - 5761

World Rectification
Rabbi Pinchas Winston - 5771



Project Genesis

Torah.org Home


Torah Portion

Jewish Law

Ethics

Texts

Learn the Basics

Seasons

Features

TORAHAUDIO

Ask The Rabbi

Knowledge Base




Help

About Us

Contact Us



Free Book on Geulah!




Torah.org Home
Torah.org HomeCapalon.com Copyright Information