Being Grateful

Moshe Kempinski

The children of Israel leave their long period of slavery in Egypt we are told;

“The children of Israel were marching out triumphantly ( BeYad Ramah). (Exodus 14:8).

They then are confronted with the reality of Egypt overtaking them at the Red sea and they become frightened. It is very difficult to condemn their fear and concern. They were a just released “slave” people with the broken ego of a slave people.
Yet after the dramatic splitting of the Red sea we read of a change;

“On that day Hashem saved Israel from the hand of Egypt, and Israel saw Egypt dying on the seashore, And Israel saw the great hand, which Hashem had used upon Egypt, and the people feared Hashem, and they believed in Hashem and in Moshe ( Moses), His servant.” ( ibid :30-31)

The text does not say Egyptians but rather Egypt. It was Egypt and all that Egypt represented to them, that they saw vanquished on the shores of the sea. As a result “they believed in Hashem and in Moshe, His servant. (ibid)

Yet we soon see something disturbing.

“The entire community of the children of Israel complained against Moshe and against Aaron in the desert. The children of Israel said to them, If only we had died by the hand of Hashem in the land of Egypt, when we sat by pots of meat, when we ate bread to our fill! For you have brought us out into this desert, to starve this entire congregation to death (ibid: 16:2-3)

And then again

“The people thirsted there for water, and the people complained against Moshe, and they said, why have you brought us up from Egypt to make me and my children and my livestock die of thirst? (ibid 17:3)

What happened to the people “they believed in Hashem and in Moshe, His servant? ( ibid 14:31). What happened to their quality of “Hakarat HaTov”, the ability to give and feel thanks?

In the repetition of the Silent prayer (the Amidah), we recite the”Modim” prayer. The text reads; “We are thankful to you, that you Hashem are our G-d and the G-d of our fathers.. “ We end the prayer with a simple thank you to G-d for giving us the awareness and power to thank Him (al SheAnachnu Modim Lach).

If one has the sense of wanting to thank and acknowledge, then one is filled with a sense that his gratitude is worth something. That he is worth something.That is the sense of empowerment released by “Hakarat HaTov”

Yet if someone feels unworthy and broken, he feels unable to be thankful and is left with a deep fear of the future. These are the type of individuals who will always focus on what is missing and what calamities are inevitably around the corner. They may truly believe in a higher power but cannot feel sure enough or worthy enough to depend on it. As a result they easily become crestfallen and fallen.

When we experience blessing in our lives we can acknowledge it and grow from that acknowledgement. Yet on the other hand if we ignore it and take it for granted we are easily led into decay and stagnation. This demon of self-doubt and feeling disconnected from destiny proved to be crippling throughout the long history of the Jewish people and continues to plague part of Israel’s present leadership to this very day.

Moshe understood the core of the problem when he described the quarrelling and the complaining with the following words:
“He named the place Massah [testing] and Meribah [quarreling] because of the quarrel of the children of Israel and because of their testing Hashem, saying, Is Hashem in our midst or not?( ibid:7).

That is the essence of the problem. It is the question that constantly needs to be explored and answered.

Yet answer is simple and is substantiated by the illogical and miraculous survival of this people .The answer is revealed in the supra-natural revival and rebirth of this land.

The simple answer is that,” yes, He is in our midst.

LeRefuat Yehudit bat Golda Yocheved

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