Ki Hu l’vado…
For He alone…
In the last segment, we mentioned that the mal’achim – and we, emulating them – sing Hashem’s praises to the One Who is the source of all.
We now turn to the phrase “ki Hu l’vado,” followed by a number of specific examples of where Hashem, and Hashem alone, is the source. Of course, we believe Hashem is the One and only source of all that exists and all that occurs in our lives (perhaps barring negligence on our part).
Hakaras ha’tov is an extremely important midah that the Torah emphasizes. The secular world, as well, believes gratitude, being thankful, and appreciating benefit received from others is an important trait of refined individuals. However, hakaras ha’tov of the Torah goes well beyond the routine “thank you” and gratitude definitions.
Imagine the following two scenarios:
- A well-meaning and -intentioned individual offers you a ride to the doctor. He says he will pick you up at 8:45, but at 8:40 he calls you and informs you that his car won’t start. He apologizes profusely that he is unable to give you the ride and you now need to call a taxi quickly.
- A grocery store opens up near you. Baruch Hashem, our local stores certainly desire to help us, in addition to providing for their families. However, imagine that the new store owner told you outright that his sole desire is to feed his family, and he has no desire to help others. You do benefit, though, because he has lower cost prices or it’s more convenient for you.
Are we obligated to have hakaras ha’tov in these cases? In the first case, would it be at the same level as we would have had if the person had actually given us the ride?
Many may feel that in the first case, one should have hakaras ha’tov, but not as much as had we actually received the benefit. In Sifsei Chaim, Midos 1, HaRav Chaim Friedlander teaches us what we are really thanking someone for. “Ki Hu l’vado” reminds us that all results are from Hashem. What we human beings contribute are desire/heart, choice, and effort. In reality, instead of saying, “Thank you so much for the ride,” we should be saying, “Thank you so much for your desire and effort in wanting to help me.” Whether or not the actual result of the ride comes to fruition is irrelevant, because the end result is mandated by Hashem and out of our control.
In Case I, the person who offered the ride had the desire to help, made the choice to help, and put forth effort to help. Hashem decided that his car should not start and that the potential recipient of his chesed should have to take a taxi that day. Our level of hakaras ha’tov should be identical to the level, had we received the ride, because we understand “ki Hu l’vado” – that the result was controlled totally by Hashem.
Another outgrowth of recognizing that all results are from Hashem is that in Case II above, we are obligated to have hakaras ha’tov for Hashem and for His messenger, even when the messenger has no desire to help us. Here we recognize that we derived a benefit that Hashem sent to us, and He is the One who chose this messenger. HaRav Chaim Shmuelevitz, in his Sichos Musar, cites many sources in the Torah that show that we are even required to have hakaras ha’tov for inanimate objects such as water and a rock, both of which benefited klal Yisrael and for which Moshe Rabbeinu was expected to show his hakaras ha’tov.
Clearly, water and rocks cannot feel our appreciation or “thank you.” The Torah is teaching us that the importance and primacy of hakaras ha’tov is for our benefit, to refine our character. That is the essence of hakaras ha’tov. Saying “thank you” and showing appreciation is an expression of our recognition, which is a mitzvah, and is very important in our relationships with others. However, it is not at the core of what hakaras ha’tov really means. As explained more fully below, for there to be hakaras ha’tov, it must begin with recognition.
In Case II, we must still feel hakaras ha’tov, because we derived a benefit and we should therefore be grateful to Hashem for that benefit – “ki Hu l’vado.” We must also be grateful on some level for the store owner having been chosen by Hashem to deliver that benefit to us, just as we must treat the water and the rock with greater compassion (Moshe not being permitted to hit the water or rock).
We see that when it comes to hakaras ha’tov, we first must recognize and appreciate the good bestowed upon us from Hashem, Who alone provides the results. After that, we should appreciate and thank His messenger for their desire and effort. Lastly, even when the messenger is a rock, which has no desire or effort, we still treat the messenger well, simply because Hashem chose it as His messenger and we derived a benefit from it.
Hakaras ha’tov for others is designed to ultimately lead us to recognize every detail of Hashem’s constant lovingkindness to us. We have previously discussed how recalling and contemplating Hashem’s constant chesed for us as a nation and each of us as a community, as a family, and as individuals, is a mitzvah min haTorah and amongst the short list of Rabbeinu Yonah’s most elevated mitzvos (a list of 11 mitzvos). The Chovos HaL’vavos, as well, writes at great length about the importance of recognizing and contemplating the constant and great chesed that Hashem bestows upon us.
Needless to say, Hashem does not need our appreciation and “thank you.” Hakaras ha’tov is for our benefit. When we recognize, appreciate, and thank Hashem for His chesed, we become elevated. The Rambam (Hilchos Brachos 26:10) writes that the more one thanks and praises Hashem, the more elevated he becomes. Ultimately, our hakaras ha’tov, and the refinement of our character as a result, bring us closer to Hashem, which is the purpose of life. This all comes about as a result of remembering “ki Hu l’vado.”
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You can direct any questions or comments to Eliezer Szrolovits at 917-551-0150.