#115 Hakarat Hatov: Gratitude
#115 Hakarat Hatov: Gratitude
In this lesson you will learn about the Jewish value of Hakarat Hatov or gratitude. It means to see the good in the world and to be grateful for what you have. You will also learn about how to be more thankful by seeing the good around us. How to turn disappointment into gratitude by trying to see the good and be thankful for what we have, rather than wish for what we don’t have.
#1 KNOW THIS: STUDY THIS:
Rabbi ben Zoma said,
“Who is wise? The one who learns from everyone!
Who is mighty? The one who rules over themselves!
Who is rich? The one who is happy with what they’ve got!
Who is honored? The one who shows honor to others!” -Pirke Avot 4:1
Ben Zoma’s advice reinforces the idea that this world is NOT as it seems. Sometimes the world seems like a confusing messy place. Sometimes the world seems like it makes no sense. Sometimes it seems as if the world is filled with pain, or sadness, or ugliness. But, as ben Zoma hints, this is only a matter of perception. If we choose to approach life and the world differently, it can be what we want it to be. The world can be what we make it to be. If we wish to learn and grow wiser, we can.
If we want to be mighty, we already are; we need only exercise the power that is already at hand. Wealth? That comes in recognizing the difference between needs and wants. And honor? We get what we give. So much of life comes down to the choices that we make, and the way in which we choose to measure success and failure.
“Just to be is a blessing. Just to live is holy.” -Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel
#3. READ: Gratitude: Let it Grow! Let it Grow!– by Tsafi Lev
The human trait of Hakarat HaTov, literally “noticing the good” but often translated as gratitude, is a perfect character trait to find within us and to continue to cultivate more of, especially the week of Thanksgiving.
In the Passover Haggadah we are reminded of the word Dayenu, “it would have been enough.” This song is based on a Psalm that reminds the Jewish People: If God had only taken us out of slavery it would have been enough. If God only gave us the Torah, that would have been enough. But there was more. We were given the Land of Israel, the Shabbat, the Holy Temple, holidays to celebrate, food to eat, drink to quench our thrust. Any one thing would have been enough of a gift, but in fact we have so much!
In developing our gratitude it is helpful to be “grateful for the partial”. So often we have a fine day until X, or Y, or Z happens, and then suddenly we forget all the perfectly fine things that happened. Hakarat HaTov, noticing the good, reminds us to accept the good as genuinely good, and not let the negative in our life so easily overshadow the positive. As it turns out, our brains are wired to notice unpleasant threatening stimulus, but we can also notice the good.
I once heard a story of a Spanish sea captain who would put on his reading glasses every time he ate strawberries.
“Why do you do that,” his crew finally asked.
The captain replied, “I love strawberries. The difficult things in life always seem bigger than they really are, so I wanted the good things to appear bigger too.”
So how can we practice Hakarat hatov each day? Here are a few ways we can work towards having gratitude for even the smallest thing each and every day.
A) One time each day, take some time to consider something nice, good, or kind. It might be a loved one, a great song on the radio. It might be chocolate. Spend a few minutes thinking about it. Being “grateful for the partial” means noticing that this person, thing, or activity is somehow part of your life. Where do you feel this gratitude? Maybe a warmth in your chest? Perhaps a smile comes across your face. As it turns out, gratitude has a feeling.
B) This week, make a “gratitude list.” Actually write down 10 people, activities, or things that make your life better. Each time you sit to write your list, be sure not to repeat previous items. If it is possible, reach out to another person to share your gratitude – especially if they are involved or responsible for what you are grateful for.
#4 RESPOND AND REACT:
- Do you know what it means to be grateful?
- What are things for which you are grateful?
- When was a time you remember where something didn’t work out as you expected but you had a good time anyway.
Need some help?
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Also, at the end of the session, remember to review your responses in your Tamid Workbook so you can get credit for this lesson. Behatzlacha (Hebrew for good luck)!
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