The Living Torah is a weekly publication distributed in and around North West London. Written by members of Hasmonean High School's Sixth Form programme - we aim to bring you divrei torah for your Shabbat table each and everyweek.

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Thursday, 14 January 2010

‘Showing The Nile The Gratitude It Deserved’

Parshas Va’era contains the bulk of the Ten Plagues, beginning with the plague of Blood and continuing up to the plague of Locusts. The plagues begin with G-d's command to Moshe: "Say to Aaron, 'Take your staff and stretch out your hand over the waters of Egypt; over their rivers, over their canals, over their ponds, and over all their gatherings of water, and they shall become blood; there shall be blood in all the land of Egypt, and in the wood and in the stones.'" [Shemos 7:19]

Rashi on this Posuk teaches that Aaron, rather than Moshe, was commanded to initiate this plague because the Nile protected Moshe when he was thrown into it as an infant. Therefore, Aaron initiated the plague of Blood and the plague of Frogs (in which the Nile was also smitten). The Gemara comments on this: A person should not cast stones into the well from which he has drunk.

This is the principle of Hakaras HaTov [recognizing a favor]. We learn from here that Hakaras HaTov applies even when the doer of the favor is only doing what he is supposed to do anyway. The Nile merely floated the basket. That is the nature of water. It is a law of physics that something lighter than water floats on water. The Nile thus did not go out of its way to do anything special for Moshe. It just did what it has been doing since the beginning of time.

And yet, we still learn from here that there is an obligation of Hakaras HaTov. This dispels a common practice among people. It is the nature of people to say: "Why do I need to say 'Thank you'? Why do I need to have HaKaros HaTov? –- He had to do it anyway!"

Hakaras HaTov is not measured by the benefactor's efforts. It is measured by the impact on the recipient. When someone benefits from someone else – whether the benefactor did or did not need to provide the benefit, he did or did not have to do it, whether it was or was not a bother for him, the beneficiary has a responsibility to recognize that he owes a debt of gratitude. The proof is the Nile River. It merely did what water does and yet Moshe Rabbeinu felt a sense of Hakaras HaTov.

I recall many years ago when driving through Hackney to Stamford Hill together with my wife, we saw a neighbour of ours, a lady called Rebbeten Semiatycki a’’h standing by the bus stop. We naturally pulled over to offer her a lift as we were going her way in any case. Not surprisingly, she thanked us for stopping for her, and we replied that it was really no bother being that we lived in the same road!

What was surprising however, was that for the next 25 years till she recently passed away, whenever we met her – she ALWAYS said ‘thank you’ for that lift! When we questioned her as to why she always felt the need to thank us, she said that the Torah obligates us to always be grateful for any favour shown to us, even if it was no bother.

So we see that there are people in our generation who live according to the lesson that Moshe Rabbeinu taught us – always to show gratitude to those who help us, and ultimately this will bring us to show gratitude to Hashem who is the Source of all our blessings!

Based on a Shiur by Rabbi Y. Frand – with a conclusion by Rabbi B. Katz.

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