Let him who is convinced that his views are true and right express them . . . at every opportunity . . . without considering how much support or how much opposition he will encounter. Only falsehood is in need of many supporters in order to win the day; falsehood must have the authority of numbers to make up for what it lacks in justification. Truth, by contrast, will always prevail, even if it takes time. Noble, courageous and pure, expressed with all the fiery zeal and conviction and with all clarity of sure awareness, stated again and again at every opportunity, truth will ultimately gain respect and admiration even of those who do not accept it. The only truth that can be lost beyond recall is that truth whose adherents no longer have the courage to speak up candidly on its behalf. Truth has never gone down in defeat as the result of opposition, it has done so only when its friends are too weak to defend it. - R' S.R. Hirsch

Thursday, August 4, 2016

A Lack of Understanding

Our Sages teach: "If a person does not have understanding, it is forbidden to have compassion for him" (Sanhedrin 92a).  Our Sages understand this as speaking of someone who lacks the quality of hakaras hatov, or gratitude.  By describing the ingrate as someone who lacks understanding, the root of his personality flaw is identified.  The ingrate's view of himself and others is completely warped. Such a person lacks the understanding that is basic to successful interpersonal relationships.

In the words of the Steipler Gaon, Rabbi Kanievsky:

Instead of feeling appreciation to his benefactors and humility before them, the ingrate looks down at them with arrogance and scorn.  He views them with disdain and sees himself as an important personage before whom they should humble themselves.  Instead of recognizing the goodness of their hearts and their generosity, he sees them as weak "pushovers" who should feel obligated to benefit him and who should view it as an honor to be counted among his supporters.  In his twisted mind, he thinks that he deserves whatever they do for him, and he almost believes that he is doing them a favor by allowing them to benefit him!

The Richest Man in Town

Baruch the beggar had a compassionate friend, Chaim, who desperately wanted to pull Baruch out of the depths of poverty.  Chaim offered Baruch a lottery ticket; for only a few pennies, Baruch would have a chance to become a millionaire.  But Baruch wasn't interested.  

"You know what, my friend," Chaim told Baruch, "take the ticket for free.  If you win the lottery, you'll just pay me the price of the ticket."   Baruch  accepted  this offer. 

The drawing was held at midnight in the midst of a terrible blizzard.  And the winner was . . . Baruch! Chaim, who was present at the drawing, was overjoyed.  But his joy would not be complete until Baruch knew.  

On a night when no one else dared to venture outside, Chaim trudged through the waist-high snow and braved the fierce winds to make his way to Baruch's hut.  He finally arrived, frozen to the bone. His repeated, insistent knocks were ignored for a long time until finally Baruch opened the door a crack and asked, "Who's there?"

"It's me, Chaim," came the excited reply.  "You won!  The grand prize in the lottery!  A million dollars!  Baruch, you're now the richest man in town!"

"I don't believe it!" said Baruch.  "What chutzpah!  You mean you knew that I'm the richest man in town and you still had the nerve to wake me up in the middle of the night?"

And he slammed the door shut.  

A good-hearted person refers to one who is happy with his lot.  For him, life is a never-ending feast, because he is grateful for every bit of good that Hashem sends his way, and therefore is perpetually happy and content.

Every morning upon wakening we say to Hashem: "I gratefully thank you, O living and eternal King, for you have returned my soul to me with compassion ...." This is known as Modeh Ani.  Modeh Ani simply means: "Thank You, Hashem, for once again granting me the greatest gift of all - life itself.  I don't take it for granted; I thank you for the blessings of the past and for the blessings that You will grant me in the future."