Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Judaism’s Top 40 – Tishrei 7 – Hakarat ha-Tov – Gratitude

Jews are eternally grateful.  The very word “Jew,” Yehudi, has within it word for gratitude (connected to Todah, which in Hebrew means “thank you.”) This is the ethos that lies behind the great Talmudic proverb which asks, "Who is rich?" and then answers, "Those who rejoice in their own lot." (Avot 4:1)

In raising children, we need to teach that true gratitude, however, includes more than obligatory thanks; they need to learn how to instinctively express hakarat hatov, or recognition of the good that another has done.

Rabbi Yisrael Salanter once noticed that a fancy restaurant was charging a huge price for a cup of coffee. He approached the owner and asked why the coffee was so expensive. After all, some hot water, a few coffee beans and a spoonful of sugar could not amount to more than a few cents.

The owner replied: "It is correct that for a few cents you could have coffee in your own home. But here in the restaurant, we provide exquisite decor, soft background music, professional waiters, and the finest china to serve your cup of coffee."

Rabbi Salanter's face lit up. "Oh, thank you very much! I now understand the blessing of Shehakol -- 'All was created by His word' -- which we recite before drinking water. You see, until now, when I recited this blessing, I had in mind only that I am thanking the Creator for the water that He created. Now I understand the blessing much better. 'All' includes not merely the water, but also the fresh air that we breathe while drinking the water, the beautiful world around us, the music of the birds that entertain us and exalt our spirits, each with its different voice, the charming flowers with their splendid colors and marvelous hues, the fresh breeze -- for all this we have to thank God when drinking our water!"

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