Thank you, for WHAT?!

Friday, 31 December, 2021 - 1:03 pm

miguel-luis-W_6b8pWBUKY-unsplash.jpgPhoto by Miguel Luis on Unsplash 

I’m not sure why everyone is busy reflecting on the past year right now considering that Rosh Hashanah was close to four months ago…

On a more serious note, it’s easy to reflect on the past year (or two) and feel down rather than uplifted. There’s no getting around the fact that the past two years have been tough on everyone. The incessant cacophony of acrimony and accusations in the media, especially as amplified through social channels, only make matters worse. And looking to the future can be downright frightening for so many…

I was reminded today of a profound message that emerges from the Exodus narrative that’s being studied in the weekly Torah portion nowadays.

One of the famous ethical teachings of our sages is that of “hakarat hatov”, appreciating and recognizing the good. And as with many Talmudic teachings, this one too is anchored in scripture. 

There are in fact many biblical sources where this idea is found, including various Mitzvahs that are rooted in this principle (like honoring one’s parents and bikkurim). Other famous biblical examples include Moses not being the one to implement the first three plagues due to his life having been saved by the water and the earth earlier in his life, and the entire people waiting while Moses’ sister Miriam healed before continuing to travel, in appreciation for her waiting and watching over Moses when he was placed in the basket. 

In addition to the examples above, there are many others that highlight the same value. However, when the Talmud wishes to convey this message, the ethical and moral value of recognizing and appreciating the good, a particularly peculiar example is chosen. 

The Torah limits the ability for certain ancient nations to convert to Judaism. It then highlights some exceptions, including the Egyptians. And the reason for the exception? “You were a sojourner in his (i.e. the Egyptians) land.”

That’s interesting. Last I checked we weren’t treated all that well while in Egypt all those years ago. Yet the Torah lists their “hospitality” as the rationale for the conversion exception vis a vis the Egyptians. What’s going on?!

Consider this. While the experience was none too pleasant to say the least, it was however the formative time for our people. We experienced unprecedented population growth in Egypt, transforming in the process from a large family to an entire nation. 

While the slavery was obviously negative, there were nonetheless some positives to be extracted from the experience. And that’s what the sages are highlighting by pointing to this example as the scriptural example of “hakarat hatov”, appreciating and recognizing the good. 

This idea provides a profound and powerful lesson. While these recent years may have been challenging, we have the ability to choose what about them we highlight. Do we focus on the negative or do we find the positive to highlight?

I’m confident that upon reflection we can all find wonderful experiences and lessons from the past couple years that have enriched us, expanded our horizons and facilitated growth. 

My blessing to you as we transition to a new period in time is that you find the positive in all of your experiences - especially the ones that feel so challenging.

Comments on: Thank you, for WHAT?!
There are no comments.