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Shoftim

08/20/2020 01:47:27 PM

Aug20

Rabbi Yosef Weinstock

How Far Our Gratitude Should Extend

Parshat Shoftim begins with a command directed at Jewish judges 
“Do not take a bribe, for bribes will blind the eyes of the wise and pervert the words of the righteous.”

The Gemara in Ketubut (page 105b) explains that the bribes discussed here are not only monetary bribes. Even verbal bribes, such as flattering the judge, are enough for a judge to remove himself from a case. Furthermore, even the slightest of favors can be considered a bribe and cause for a judge to avoid the case. The Gemara offers the following examples:

Rabbi Shmuel had difficulty crossing a rickety bridge. A man offered his hand, helping Shmuel cross. Upon hearing that this man had a case to be heard in Shmuel’s court, Shmuel recused himself from the case.

Ameimar, another Rabbi from the Talmud, was presiding over a court case when a feather landed on his head. A man came over and removed the feather. Here again, this slight favor was reason enough for Ameimar to remove himself from that court proceeding. 

These stories are difficult to understand. After all, we are dealing with great Rabbis, whom we would expect to be both smart and honest. Are we really concerned that these Rabbis would be unable to judge fairly after receiving such minor favors from one of the litigants?
Rabbi Avraham Pam explained that the lesson that the Talmud is teaching here is one of Hakarat Hatov: we are obligated to nurture within ourselves an attitude of gratitude and thanksgiving. A person should be thankful for any good that comes his/her way; even if that favor could be considered minor. These Rabbis understood the importance of Hakarat Hatov, and they removed themselves from these court hearings to teach us just how far gratitude should extend: Not just for the big things but for the little things as well. And if we must be grateful for the little things, how much more so must we be grateful for the big things that we are blessed with in our lives, whether we receive them from other people or directly from Hashem.

When we wake up in the morning, the first thing we say is “Modeh Ani”, “I am grateful to You, God, for providing me with another day of life, another opportunity to do good deeds and to be the beneficiary of goodness.” There are lots of challenges and problems in the world right now. But that’s no reason to forget to be grateful. In fact, if we find the time and the strength to strengthen our sense of gratitude especially now, it is possible that our problems and challenges will seem smaller and more manageable. Some of those problems may even disappear as a result of our newfound emphasis on gratitude.

Wed, October 28 2020 10 Cheshvan 5781