Rav Yisrael Shachor, Former Rosh Kollel, Chicago Kollel, Torah MiTzion
Gratitude is a broad and profound psychological concept. Its foundations in the laws of the Torah can be found in the mitzvah of honoring one´s parents and the Bikurim – bringing of the first fruits to the cohanim in the Beit HaMikdash. It appears in many midrashim, and it is almost impossible to find someone that has not written on the obligation to distance oneself from ingratitude and to display proper appreciation.
Our Sages said, “Whoever is ungrateful to his friend, will in the end, show a lack of appreciation to G-d, as well!” Furthermore, they said, “Adam HaRishon was an ingrate when he said, “The woman that You provided for me, she gave me from the tree and I ate.” Even the Jewish people in the midbar were unappreciative when they said, “Our souls are disgusted by this awful bread (the man).”
It seems that most of the treatises on this topic discuss the immense importance of Hakarat Tova – Grattitude, yet leave the personal decision ultimately to individual discretion. We do not find a systematic treatment of the laws of Hakarat Tova. However, from the words of our Sages one may obtain several practical rules of conduct.
The beginning of gratitude is the internal recognition of the fact that one has received good from another. This, in and of itself, is insufficient. One must verbally acknowledge the gift one has received!
Let us examine Parshat Bikurim, “and you shall say to him…” Rashi comments, “That you are not unappreciative…” , “and you shall answer…” “one must raise one´s voice (Rashi). ” From here we derive the first halachic principle: The notion of gratitude is not just a “duty of the heart”. Thank you must be said to the person who bestowed the kindness without stuttering or hesitation, but in a loud and clear voice.
The second principle is: Just saying thank you is not enough. One has the obligation to repay in kind the goodness received. If one does not he is considered as “The wicked borrows and will not pay.” The proof of this is from the incredible words of the Vilna Gaon in Sefer Yehoshua, Chapter 2. The Gaon explains the request of Rachav from the two spies to do for her Chesed v´Emmet -” kindness and truth” – to save her and her family. What is referred to here as kindness and what is truth?
The Gra explains with an analogy. Someone who is fed lentils by his friend is obligated to feed him stuffed pheasant in return. According to what his friend has done for him, he must do in return. This is a relationship based on Emmet truth. Therefore, Rachav´s request that she be saved is an expression of truth. This, however, will not suffice. If one´s friend has done a favor for him in which he was not obliged, and, he will only “feed him lentils”, he has responded according to the dictates of truth, but, not Chessed – kindness. This is just not enough! The obligation is to extend oneself and provide stuffed pheasant! As such, one is exchanging a kindness for a kindness. Therefore, Rachav beseeched the spies to “go the extra step” and save her family as well.
In Midrash Shemot Rabba 4:2 it is related that Moshe Rabeinu said to G-d that he is not permitted to sent as the agent of saving Klal Yisrael from Egypt because he is indebted to Yitro, his father-in-law. Why? Because Yitro opened the door of his home to Moshe! The midrash continues, “Whoever opens the door (of their home) to his friend, that individual owes him his life.” Therefore it says, “… and Moshe went and returned to Yitro, his father-in-law.” If Yitro would not permit Moshe to go, the obligation of gratitude would ordain that he should remain! What would become of the redemption of Klal Yisrael!? The Almighty has many messengers…
In the name of all of the members of Kollel Torah MiTzion I want to publicly express our gratitude and appreciation for all those who have assisted and support the Kollel. May we have the opportunity to personally return each and every one of your kindnesses!