Friday, September 13, 2013

Anthony Weiner vs. Saul Kessler: Hakoras HaTov

It's hard to believe, but this is my third post about the famous "argument in the kosher bakery". But then again, I mentioned that there is a lot to learn from the clip. This time I want to write about what happens towards the end of their dispute. Here it is again for you viewing pleasure:

Now here is something that you should know: When two Jews have an argument in a kosher bakery, there are a lot of subtleties that may go unnoticed by the general public. At about 2:00 into the clip, Anthony Weiner says the following:

"By the way I fought very hard for this community and delivered more than you will ever in your entire life."
Kessler responds:
"You never delivered deliver for yourself."
It could be that Kessler was hinting to the what the Talmud says in Avodah Zarah 2B with regard to certain nations of the world. Subtle! In any case, at this point Weiner says something that I think probably went under the radar of most of the people who viewed the clip:
"You don't understand Hakoras HaTov."
Hakoras HaTov (or Hakarat HaTov according to the Sephardi pronunciation) is a very important concept in Jewish thought. Once upon a time, I wrote an entire post about it:
Jews like to ask questions. Some say that Jews like to answer a question with another question. This is a strange thing to do.

Every Sabbath we end the morning prayers with a question, which is a verse from Tehillim, Psalms 106:

"Who can express the mighty acts of the L-RD, or make all His praise to be heard?"

This is also a strange thing to do, to finish the prayers with a question! Of course, this is a rhetorical question that is not meant to be answered. Nobody can express the mighty acts of the L-RD! It just cannot be done!

The verse itself seems to be redundant. The second part of the verse seems to repeat the first part of the verse. "Making all His praise to be heard" seems to be the same as "expressing the mighty acts of the L-RD."

The Maharal from Prague wrote a book about the Exodus, "Gevurot Hashem". In chapter 1 of Gevurot Hashem the Maharal explains that the verse is telling us two different ideas. The first part of the verse deals with quality, while the second part is talking about quality. "Who can express the mighty acts of the L-RD" in terms of the quality of his acts,” or make ALL His praise to be heard" in terms of quantity. Whether in terms of quality or in terms of quantity G-d's praises cannot be expressed!

Since this is so, the Maharal questions why we bother making a seder Passover night. While eating chicken soup with kneidlach is certainly a worthy pastime, the real purpose of the seder is to speak of the great miracles that G-d did for us as we left Egypt. But this is an impossible task! Who can express the mighty acts of the LORD, or make all His praise to be heard?

The Maharal answers that while we cannot possibly say all of G-d’s praises, we dare not be silent. This is called "Hakarat Hatov", recognizing and appreciating the good that someone has done for you. Gratitude. This is considered an important character trait that one should foster, and G-d forbid not to be a "Kefui Tovah", an ingrate. We say G-d's praises in order to show our appreciation and gratitude, even thought we know that our words cannot encompass all of the things that G-d is to be praised for.

I am impressed that Anthony Weiner was familiar with the concept. May we all merit to recognize the good,

G'mar Chatimah Tovah!

Update: Perhaps Weiner learned the term from his meeting with these rabbis.

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