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Section: Moadim   Category: Weekly Sefirah Diary
Week 5 Hod: Thanks, But No Thanks

When we are without a car and someone is nice enough to stop for us and offer us a ride there are 3 choices of service he can offer.  Basic Plan - Drop us off along his pre planned route at the nearest point to our destination without going out of his way.  Premium Plan - He can go out of his way and take us closer to our destination.   Platinum Service - Door to door service where he is willing to even go around the block rather than drop us off on the corner.  This last plan may go too far for our liking and we prefer to walk from the corner. Why?

Hakaras Hatov is a hallmark of great men. It comes from a combination of numerous sterling character traits among them humility, consideration of others, awareness and conscientiousness, lack of ego, honesty, and also a good long term memory. Too say thank you should be relatively easy but to be thankful is more difficult. In Lashon Kodesh the word for thankful is Hoda'ah which by no small coincidence also means to admit. Thank you means that I admit that you have done something for me and I now owe you something in return. Some people mistakenly think that saying thank you is the payback for the favor. It is not. It is only an admission that I have received something from you and I hope to have the opportunity to repay either by increased friendship or other means. Hakaras HaTov says Reb Yerucham Levovitz is not just a nice gesture or worthy midda. It is a real obligation like any other in Choshen Mishpat. If you withhold it you are a thief!

Most decent people do not want you overextend yourself for them because it becomes a burden on them to repay. At some point the incremental benefit is not worth the incremental debt of gratitude. We would rather walk from the corner since it is easier than paying back extremely generous kindness.

What about the basic plan? It is quite easy to take a favor from someone who doesn't go out of way for you since you don't feel much of debt for his favor. Wrong! shouts the Michtav Me'Eliyahu. True hakaras hatov ignores the effort or intention on the part of the giver. This he proves from Moshe Rabbeinu who wouldn't hit the water to show gratitude, even though the water didn't do anything out of the ordinary for him nor does it have feelings.

If one bases his gratitude on the intention and effort of the giver, says Rav Dessler, he will rationalize away all hakaras hatov. He will always find an ulterior motive on the givers side to diminish the effort on the part of the giver. Hakaras hatov to his parents? No way! They do everything for their own honor and to satisfy their natural love for their children. Hashem? No of course not. It is no sweat off Hashem's back to give him health, happiness, and oodles of money so why should I be thankful for his "imperfect life". Hitchiking? For basic service there is really nothing to be thankful for. He is anyway going in my direction.

As we go through the week of Hod let's keep in mind two things. First, for anything that anyone does for us let's just be grateful without being judgmental. Second let's show real hakaras hatov by outwardly displaying it and even returning a favor. It will make us better spouses, children, parents and friends and most of all better people.