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Hakaras haTov -- How far?

Another interesting ha'ara from the Sifsei Chaim, Midos v'Avodas haShem. After the burning bush incident, where Moshe Rabbeinu was told in a direct navu'a from haShem to go to Mitzrayim to bring out Klal Yisrael (and all the back and forth there), we have pasuk 4:18: Moshe left and returned to Yeser his father-in-law, etc. Rashi brings the M'chilta on that verse that says that Moshe was asking to leave because he had promised his father-in-law not leave Midian without permission. The medrash explains that Moshe had made the promise because of his hakaras hatov to Yisro.

Now wait a minute... the entire klal yisrael is languishing in Mitzrayim, it is time for them to be redeemed, and Moshe is the chosen redeemer. Yet Moshe Rabbeinu needs his father-in-law's permission? And just what was the chesed that Yisro had done for Moshe? Yisro had invited Moshe in for a meal. And why did Yisro invite Moshe in for a meal? Because Moshe had just saved his daughters and watered his flocks. Also, since Yisro had been excommunicated since swearing off avoda zara, he was having trouble finding a shiduch for his daughters and Moshe seemed a likely candidate. So the chesed was relatively small and Yisro (besides his ulterior motives of looking for a shiduch) was really repaying a debt of gratitude to Moshe Rabeinu anyway.

I think there are at least two very practical and implementable lessons to take from here. First is that my obligation for hakaras hatov is not in any way diminished simply because the other person has ulterior motives. So what? That is their business; from my perspective I received a chesed and I need to acknowledge that. A thank you (with a seiver panim yafos, of course) is inexpensive and always appreciated. Thank your ba'al t'fila for leading the services, your friend for bringing you a cup of coffee, your husband/wife for being your husband/wife.

Second, there is One who acts with no ulterior motives, wants nothing but your happiness and well-being, and provides for your ever minute of the day and every breath of your life. So when you make a bracha, take a few seconds to do it justice. Look at the food, for example, and appreciate the color, warmth, smell, feel, etc. Take just a moment to appreciate the complex system that supports growing it, transporting it, storing it, making it affordable, etc. Remember that HaShem made the entire creation so you could appreciate and enjoy being; and this is part of it. And then say the bracha word by word as if you really mean it. Thank G-d.


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