For God So Loved

HumbleWhen this question reached the Alter of Kelm, zt”l, he explained quite decisively. “Two nations were forever distanced from Hashem due to their lack of hakoras hatov for the kindness of Avraham towards Lot, as the Ramban explains. Consider this, my brothers. Is there anyone in this generation who acts kindly to the grandchildren of a person who helped them? Surely so many years have passed, and most will surely have forgotten such an old obligation? We would be surprised to find even one such person in a city!”

Rav Yechezkel Levenstein, zt”l, recounted that the Alter’s rebuke did indeed bear fruit. “Boruch Hashem, I knew people in Kelm who truly knew how to express their appreciation towards those who had shown them—or their parents—kindness. I even knew people who bestowed kindness on the grandchildren of those who helped them. They did their utmost to do whatever good possible to those who had been kind to them and even their descendants. This is the level of truly pious and upright people who know their obligation in the world.”

The obligation for hakoras hatov itself is clearly explained in the Mishnas Rabbi Eliezer, “There is nothing more serious in God’s eyes than one who lacks proper appreciation. Adam HaRishon was banished from Gan Eden only because he lacked proper appreciation. God got angry at our forefathers in the desert only because they lacked hakoras hatov.”

Yomi Daf Digest
Stories Off the Daf
“The Need for Gratitude”
Chullin 62

“I gratefully thank You, living and existing King
for restoring my soul to me with compassion.
Abundant is your faithfulness.”

Modeh Ani

Gratitude is a quality that isn’t always well demonstrated in the modern world of the west. In many other cultures, including the middle east, hospitality and the expression of gratitude is still highly prized (at least among the older generation). What about those of us who are attached to the God of Israel and who are disciples of Jesus?

Every morning, before getting out of bed, I silently bless God with the Modeh Ani for preserving my life for another day. I’m not telling you this because I think it makes me a better person or anything, but to illustrate the point that we depend on God for literally everything in our lives, regardless of what it is or how we think we’ve acquired it. If God is so gracious to us that he “opens His hand and satisfies the desires of every living thing” (Psalm 145:16), how can we fail to acknowledge that before Him or not proceed to pass that graciousness on to others.

Despite the terrible shortages, the Imrei Emes always put the needs of the poor first. A certain chassid once brought him a little challah for Shabbos. This challah was made of the finest flour—a danger for the baker since this flour was set aside for soldiers—so the rebbe could avoid using coarse bread for hamotzi on Shabbos. This challah was considered very valuable since it was of much better quality.

To the surprise of all, the rebbe gave out this precious bread to his chassidim who came for shiyarim. The rebbe explained his generosity with a statement on today’s daf. “In Chullin 63 we find that the chasidah bird is called this since it does kindness exclusively with its own kind—they only share food with each other. Interestingly, we find in the Yerushalmi that mice are called wicked because when they see a lot of fruit they call their friends to join them. We may well wonder the exact difference between the two. After all, aren’t both kind to their own species exclusively?”

“The answer is that mice only call their friends when there is a lot. A chasidah shares even when there is not so much to be shared…”

Daf Yomi Digest
Stories Off the Daf
“The Rebbe’s Chessed”
Chullin 63

It’s not that we don’t do this, but we all need a reminder that we have a duty to share what God has provided with others, not just when we have plenty, but when we are in want. That’s why I recite Modeh Ani in the morning…as a reminder that I am grateful to God for my life and what I have and that what I have should be shared. But what we share shouldn’t be just what we have, but who we are. Ultimately, they should all be the same thing.

The Rebbe wept profoundly as he spoke these words:

The entire being of Moses was the Torah he brought to his people. The Torah was more than something he taught. It was what he was. It was his G-d within him.

Yet when it came to a choice between the Torah or his people, he chose his people. He said, “And if you do not forgive them, then wipe me out from Your book that You have written!”

His whole being was the Torah,
but deep into his essence, at the very core,
was his oneness with his people.

Rabbi Tzvi Freeman
Bringing Heaven Down to Earth
Based on letters and talks of the Rebbe
Rabbi M. M. Schneerson
“The Ultimate Sacrifice”

For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. –John 3:16

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