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Modeh -- Saying thank you and admitting the truth.

More from The Sifsei Chaim in Midos v'Avodas HaShem, as filtered by me. The word "modeh" in lashon hakodesh can mean either "gratitude" or "admission". In fact, it really expresses a concept that means both. The midrash, in fact, makes a seemingly strange connection: Leah was a ba'alas ho'da'ah and produced children who were ba'alei ho'da'ah. Leah expressed ho'da'ah when her fourth son was born and so named him Yehuda, Yehuda expressed ho'da'ah when he admitted (was modeh) that Tamar was innocent and he was guilty. The midrash is comparing the ho'da'ah which was thanks and praise, to the ho'da'ah of Yehudah which was an admission of guilt -- a very public and embarrassing admission of guilt, in fact. What relation is there between those feelings of love and enthusiasm for being blessed with a fourth son have to do with the the feelings of a truly great person who finds himself having to publicly admit have been in a very compromising situation in order to save the life of the woman he has wrongfully accused?

That, says the Sifsei Chaim, is precisely the point. Admission that we got something as a total gift has the potential to feel shameful; very shameful. The deeper one feels that he is undeserving, the gift itself is absolutely unearned, and the giver had no reason for giving other than a desire to benefit another -- the deeper the feeling of shame. This feeling is what the Zohar calls "nehama d'k'sufa" (the bread of shame), and it is because of this feeling that HaShem gives us this world and a lifetime to do Torah and Mitzvos to, so to speak, earn our reward.

There are two paths available to deal with this shame. First, we can avoid the feeling altogether. This is easily accomplished by:
  • telling ourselves that we deserve and/or earned the gift (at least partially)
  • devaluing the gift itself
  • assigning ulterior motives to the giver (he did it because it makes him feel good)
... or some combination of those. This is easy, as it only requires some rationalization; something we excel at anyway. The problem, of course, is that any avoidance of pain, the underlying disease is still at work.

There is a more difficult path, but it is a path that builds and produces growth instead of merely avoiding the uncomfortable. This feeling of shame can be put to use; not avoided, to accomplish a very positive purpose: to make us want to be giving beings. That is why the medrash puts Leah's praise to HaShem and Yehuda's admission of the truth together. In both cases the burden of unworthiness is removed and replaced with a sense of accomplishment. These are precisely the kinds of acts that we admire and praise others for; and now we can honestly admire ourselves. All it takes is recognizing that we are creations of HaShem who loves us more than we love ourselves and wants are good more than we want our own good. Therefore praise and admission are both one thing... and they open the gate to the one true good: closeness to the author of sole source of Good. Baruch HaShem.

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