Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Genuine Gratitude

Rashi writes that a person doesn’t have the nerve to be overly bold to one who did him a favor. Interestingly, the Ben Ish Chai explains that this element of hakaras hatov is precisely why Hashem put us in Egypt in the first place. He illustrates this with a parable:
There was a wealthy man who raised an orphan as one of his own children. This child’s every need was taken care for twenty years without fail. One day. a poor man came to the house and asked the wealthy man for a donation. The wealthy man gave him a generous donation and the poor man was so gratified by this kindness that he began to sing the wealthy man’s praises in a very gratifying manner.
After he left, the wealthy man’s wife said, “I don’t understand it. We gave a one time donation to the poor man and he burst into praise, yet we have paid many times that amount to the orphan yet he has never even said thank you.”
“This is because he takes all that he has for granted,” replied the wealthy man. “If you wish to inculcate in him an awareness of what we have given him he must be sent away.”
The wealthy man called the orphan and said, “I have supported you until now but you are already a man and can definitely support yourself. You should find your way to life and peace!”
The young man kissed his host’s hand as was customary, and left.
He found an abandoned bench to sleep on and the very next day found work as a laborer to earn his bread.
After three days of backbreaking labor, the wealthy man called the orphan back and said, “You may now return to my household if you wish.”
Now the orphan praised the couple effusively for every kindness since he stopped taking what he received for granted.
Similarly, Hashem first made us slaves in Egypt and only later brought us to Eretz Yisrael to ensure that we not take the good of Eretz Yisrael for granted.
One reason why we recollect our difficult slavery briefly every day and at length at least once a year is to enable us to hold on to our gratitude to Hashem for all His kindnesses to us. A former slave should take nothing for granted!

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