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Appreciating Appreciation

By Rabbi Meyer Amar

Liluis Nishmas Esther bat Dona

A story[1] is told about the Gaon Reb Yonoson Eybechutz[2]. Before he became famous he used to be the Rabbi of a small town in Czechoslovakia. Seeing that he was not overly busy with halachic matters he took it upon himself to set up Gemachim, charities and a soup kitchen, taking care of the town’s impoverished and unfortunate. Emissaries came from Prague one day bearing a transfer request to take up the Prague Rabbanus. They met with Reb Yonoson and the town leaders requesting his move to Prague. To his surprise the leaders of the town were au fait with his departure, they didn’t object or create a fuss. He was most surprised after what he had done for the community that they didn’t even ask him to continue his leadership or offer any raise in salary and conditions in order to attract him to stay. This was most upsetting for him and even more so embarrassing in front of the emissaries. When the band of wagons eventually arrived to pick up the Rav, his family and belongings, no one from the town appeared to ask for divrei brocho or to wish him well for his future. Immediately he made a decision to call a community meeting in the shul so that he may give his leavers speech. His topic was that of shmiras hamitzvos. How careful they must all be to guard themselves from dropping their level of religious fervour and connection to Hashem. He explained the reason for his sharp words were not out of anger but out of concern. If they didn’t feel an obligation to show appreciation to a Rav who had served them with great energy for 3 years and set up multiple organisations to benefit the community then surely there was a danger of them losing their appreciation to Hashem for the good He does for them. They should strengthen their recognition and praise for Hashem and guard their connection to Torah and mitzvah observance which are the regular casualties of one who does not really appreciate what Hashem does for him.

This story can be used to explain why Moshe Rabbeinu told the Bnei Yisroel ‘to guard their souls ….lest they fall into the trap of serving Idols’ (Perek 4 Possuk 15-16). Based on a Midrash in Parshas Ekev – Moshe told off the Bnei Yisroel for their lack of appreciation of his efforts on their behalf; that it will lead to a lack of appreciation of Hashem’s benevolence in their lives, leading in the worst case scenario to betrayal of Hashem through idol worship.

Appreciation is the bedrock of a practicing Jew’s commitment to the Torah and Hashem. In order to cultivate this, one has to work on feeling and displaying appreciation to all those around, who one benefits from. The list is endless but the obvious ones that immediately spring to mind are parents, wife, husband, siblings, teachers, Rabbonim, gaboaim and askonim of tzorchei tzibbur to mention a few. When you regularly practice appreciation to those around you it embeds it into your soul facilitating your dedication to Hashem which is every Jew’s ultimate calling in this life.

If you walk away from reading this with the intention of being Makir Tov to at least one person in the list then you have begun to appreciate appreciation – Hatzlocho

[1] This Dvar Torah has been translated and adapted from the words of Reb Yisroel Grossman – member of the Moetzes Gedoley Hatorah in Eretz Yisroel

[2] Author of sefer Urim Vetumim on Shulchan Oruch – 17th century

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