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Jonathan Tobin: Defending the Right to a Jewish State

Heather Hale: Compliment your kids without giving them big heads

Megan Shauri: 10 ways you are ruining your own happiness

Carolyn Bigda: 8 Best Dividend Stocks for 2015

Kiplinger's Personal Finance editors: 7 Things You Didn't Know About Paying Off Student Loans

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Densie Well, Ph.D., R.D. Open your eyes to yellow vegetables

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Rabbi Yonason Goldson: Clarifying one of the greatest philosophical conundrums in theology

Caroline B. Glick: The disappearance of US will

Megan Wallgren: 10 things I've learned from my teenagers

Lizette Borreli: Green Tea Boosts Brain Power, May Help Treat Dementia

John Ericson: Trying hard to be 'positive' but never succeeding? Blame Your Brain

The Kosher Gourmet by Julie Rothman Almondy, flourless torta del re (Italian king's cake), has royal roots, is simple to make, . . . but devour it because it's simply delicious

April 14, 2014

Rabbi Dr Naftali Brawer: Passover frees us from the tyranny of time

Greg Crosby: Passing Over Religion

Eric Schulzke: First degree: How America really recovered from a murder epidemic

Georgia Lee: When love is not enough: Teaching your kids about the realities of adult relationships

Cameron Huddleston: Freebies for Your Lawn and Garden

Gordon Pape: How you can tell if your financial adviser is setting you up for potential ruin

Dana Dovey: Up to 500,000 people die each year from hepatitis C-related liver disease. New Treatment Has Over 90% Success Rate

Justin Caba: Eating Watermelon Can Help Control High Blood Pressure

The Kosher Gourmet by Joshua E. London and Lou Marmon Don't dare pass over these Pesach picks for Manischewitz!

April 11, 2014

Rabbi Hillel Goldberg: Silence is much more than golden

Caroline B. Glick: Forgetting freedom at Passover

Susan Swann: How to value a child for who he is, not just what he does

Cameron Huddleston: 7 Financial Tasks You Should Tackle Right Now

Sandra Block and Lisa Gerstner: How to Profit From Your Passion

Susan Scutti: A Simple Blood Test Might Soon Diagnose Cancer

Chris Weller: Have A Slow Metabolism? Let Science Speed It Up For You

The Kosher Gourmet by Diane Rossen Worthington Whitefish Terrine: A French take on gefilte fish

April 9, 2014

Jonathan Tobin: Why Did Kerry Lie About Israeli Blame?

Samuel G. Freedman: A resolution 70 years later for a father's unsettling legacy of ashes from Dachau

Jessica Ivins: A resolution 70 years later for a father's unsettling legacy of ashes from Dachau

Kim Giles: Asking for help is not weakness

Kathy Kristof and Barbara Hoch Marcus: 7 Great Growth Israeli Stocks

Matthew Mientka: How Beans, Peas, And Chickpeas Cleanse Bad Cholesterol and Lowers Risk of Heart Disease

Sabrina Bachai: 5 At-Home Treatments For Headaches

The Kosher Gourmet by Daniel Neman Have yourself a matzo ball: The secrets bubby never told you and recipes she could have never imagined

April 8, 2014

Lori Nawyn: At Your Wit's End and Back: Finding Peace

Susan B. Garland and Rachel L. Sheedy: Strategies Married Couples Can Use to Boost Benefits

David Muhlbaum: Smart Tax Deductions Non-Itemizers Can Claim

Jill Weisenberger, M.S., R.D.N., C.D.E : Before You Lose Your Mental Edge

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April 4, 2014

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Amy Peterson: A life of love: How to build lasting relationships with your children

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Cameron Huddleston: Best and Worst Buys of April 2014

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April 2, 2014

Paul Greenberg: Death and joy in the spring

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Lecia Bushak: Why Hand Sanitizer May Actually Harm Your Health

Stacy Rapacon: Great Funds You Can Own for $500 or Less

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Jewish World Review January 4, 2008 / 26 Teves, 5768

The great aren't exempt from being grateful

By Rabbi Avraham Pam

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The Bible is more than literature. Embedded in its "stories" are profound lessons that to the untrained eye often go missed. Here, a world renowned sage examines Moses' life in a way your Sunday school teacher likely didn't

“The Divine said to Moses, 'Say to Aaron, 'Take your staff and stretch out your hand over the waters of Egypt . . . and they shall become blood'.”

                        —   Exodus 7:19

http://www.JewishWorldReview.com | Rashi, the foremost commentator, explains that it was Aaron, not Moses, who was commanded to strike the river. This, because the river protected the infant Moses when he was cast into it (see Exodus 2:3). Smiting it would demonstrate a lack of gratitude. Similarly, it was Aaron who used his staff to bring upon the Egyptians the second plague of frogs, which came from the river, and the third plague of lice, which came from the earth. Rashi (8:12) offers that since the dust of the land had protected Moses when he used it to conceal the Egyptian he had killed (see 2:12), it would have been ungrateful of him to hit the earth to deliver the plague of lice. Therefore Aaron was the one to do it.

This teaching serves as a remarkable example of the concept of hakaros hatov, gratitude, which plays such a central role in the life of a Jew and is the underlying theme of numerous mitzvos (religious duties).

While most people realize that gratitude is required when one receives a great favor or kindness from another person, how many people are thankful for small, insignificant ones? When the benefactor is a human being it is logical to express one's gratitude, but must one feel gratitude to an inanimate creation like the river or soil?

The answer must be that gratitude means that the recipient must recognize the good he has received. It makes no difference if the benefactor will be cognizant of the recipient's thanks or not. The recipient must be thankful just the same because he received ''good.''

In the previous Torah reading, there is another striking illustration of the great extent of the obligation of gratitude. The Torah devotes over 30 verses to describing how Moses repeatedly refused the Divine's request that he take upon himself the mantle of leadership, to ''take My people, the Children of Israel, out of Egypt'' (3:10). This dialogue between the Creator and Moses went on for seven days.

Finally, while Moses agreed to his appointment as the redeemer of his people, he still had one more request from G-d. He had to obtain the permission of his father-in-law, Jethro (Yeser): So Moses went and returned to Yeser his father-in-law, and said to him, ''Let me now go back to my brethren who are in Egypt, and see if they are still alive.'' And Yeser said to Moses, ''Go to peace'' (4:18).

Rashi explains that Moses needed Jethro's consent to leave because he had sworn to him that he would not leave him without permission (see also Talmud, Nedarim 65a). The Midrash (Shemos Rabbah 4:2) gives a slightly different explanation: Moses told the Divine, ''Jethro accepted me, opened his home to me (by giving me his daughter as a wife), and I am to him like a son. One owes his life to someone who opens his home to him. Therefore, I cannot leave without his permission.''

Moses's gratitude to his father-in-law knew no limits. He would even give up the opportunity to become the redeemer of his people should Jethro deny his request to return to Egypt. This time G-d was not angry at Moses for refusing Him but agreed that obtaining Jethro's permission was proper conduct.

By contemplating Moses's behavior, one can extrapolate a fascinating insight into the parameters of gratitude. True, Jethro had generously taken Moses into his home and given him his daughter, Tzipporah, as a wife. However, Moses could have easily denied his obligation of gratitude to Jethro. He could have felt that it was Jethro who ''got the bargain on the deal'' and who owed him honor and respect.

After all, Jethro was the minister of Midian (2:16) and he had been a distinguished religious leader as well as a powerful political figure. Rashi, quoting the Midrash (Shemos Rabbah 1:32), says that Jethro had been a priest to the deity of Midian but he had become disillusioned. He began experimenting with all the idols of the world (see Devarim Rabbah 1:5) and, realizing their futility, had publicly renounced idol worship. His people ostracized him for his ''heresy,'' and he was shunned by all facets of the population. Even lowly shepherds refused to work for him, forcing his seven daughters to personally tend their father's flock.

The ban against Jethro was so strong that no Midianite would dare violate it and marry one of his daughters. Thus, while Jethro bravely defied everyone around him in order to follow his heart as a seeker of truth, it put him and his daughters into an extremely difficult financial and matrimonial position. He was certainly concerned about who would marry his daughters — and he had seven of them to be worried about!

Therefore, when Moses came to the aid of Jethro's daughters at the well when some other shepherds came and drove them away (2:17), he was invited by Jethro to his home to eat bread with his family. Rashi says that this was a euphemistic reference to the hope that ''maybe he will marry one of you,'' which Moses soon did when he took Tzipporah for a wife.

The son-in-law that the ostracized Jethro got was much better than what he could possibly have expected. The groom was not an undesirable match who was settling for something less than ideal because he could not hope to find someone better. He was the future Moses the Law Giver who would soon be appointed the leader of Jewry and would speak to the Divine face to face, as a man would speak to his fellow (33:11).

Who should owe gratitude to whom? Thus, when Moses was commanded by G-d Himself to assume the leadership of Jewry, why did he feel he must get Jethro's permission to leave, being ready to decline this greatest mission in history if Jethro would refuse? He could have thought to himself, True, Jethro gave me a wife, but look who I am now! I will soon be the leader of Jewry, the eternal teacher of the Jewish people about whom Jethro would later claim distinction and pride himself as being the father-in-law of Moses (18:1)!

Moses could have looked at it this way but, obviously, did not. He was grateful to the one who took him into his home and gave him a wife and was prepared to postpone, or even cancel, his mission until Jethro permitted him to go. This is the extent of gratitude required by the Torah.

While every person is a recipient of countless favors each day from the people around him, there is a special obligation of gratitude to one's parents, spouse, in-laws, and rabbei'im (spiritual mentors).

One of the main reasons behind the mitzvah to honor your father and your mother (20:12) is the aspect of gratitude. There is no limit to the amount of gratitude a person should feel to his parents, who brought him into this world and who sacrificed the best years of their lives to raise him to adulthood. There are some children who feel that they owe no thanks to their parents. One expressed it this way: ''Every parent does what my parents did for me. What's so special about them? As a matter of fact, some parents do even more . . .'' How tragic it is to hear such words. Obviously they come from a person who does not even begin to fathom what gratitude means.

How much gratitude does one owe one's spouse? The Talmud (Yevamos 63a) tells about Rabbi Chiya who had a very difficult wife who caused him much distress and suffering. Yet, whenever he went to the market and saw something he knew his wife would like, he bought it for her.

Rabbi Chiya's nephew, Rav, noticed his uncle's behavior and asked him, ''Why do you go out of your way to please your wife who gives you such hardships?'' Rabbi Chiya answered him, ''Isn't it enough that she raises our children and protects me from improper thoughts? Don't I owe her gratitude for that?''

Rabbi Chiya's behavior was not simply a ''political'' tactic to remain on her ''good side'' by buying her gifts. He honestly felt that she deserved these gifts because of the beneficial service she rendered for him (despite the fact that the children she was raising were her own children).

How many fewer marital harmony problems would there be if each spouse would emulate the behavior of Rabbi Chiya. Many times rifts develop in the fragile relationship of marriage due to a relatively minor matter. Something may not have been done properly: a meal may have been late, a piece of sewing overlooked, a household chore forgotten. This results in an outburst of anger, followed by a sharp retort, and the friction escalates rapidly until the marriage is in crisis. Such behavior would have no place in a home where each spouse expresses his or her gratitude for the routine, daily services received from the other.

The same applies to one's relationship with one's parents-in-law. Many people believe that in-law problems are an unavoidable fact of life about which nothing can be done. That is simply not true. If the young couple would contemplate how much gratitude each of them owes their in-laws, if for nothing else than the fact that they raised a child worthy to become their spouse, that would greatly diminish the friction that arises from time to time.

Gratitude is the cornerstone of proper midos (character traits). It brings a person success in this world and in the Next. When a person is grateful to his fellow human beings, this will certainly lead him to thank G-d for the countless benefits He bestows upon him every day of his life, which in turn will bring him to love G-d and serve Him with all his heart and soul.

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Rabbi Avraham Yaakov Pam (1913 - August 16, 2001) was the dean of Yeshiva Torah Vodaas in Brooklyn, New York and a member of the Council of Torah Sages of Agudath Israel. Recently, some of his public addresses have been rendered into English by a disciple, Rabbi Sholom Smith. The latest is "Shabbos With Rav Pam", from which this essay was excerpted.

© 2007, Mesorah Publications, Ltd.