Make your own free website on Tripod.com
Appreciation

We learn appreciation from Jacob. When he went to a town that was later called Succot, he introduced the concept of building barns for animals. This was the first time animals were housed in barns; previously they were housed in corrals. As a result, the town was named Sukkot, for the barns that Yaakov introduced. In Schem, Yaakov introduced a marketplace. He was famous for his practice of returning to his community something in appreciation for his living there. It is interesting that the Torah teaches this trait of appreciation especially in relation to Jacob, as opposed to Abraham and Isaac. Abraham generally represents acts between man and man. Isaac represents acts between man and G-d. Jacob represents acts between man and himself, those acts which are done because they ring true in one's own self. The main point in the act of appreciation is to really feel the appreciation, therefore Jacob is the father in the Torah from whom we learn appreciation.

Jacob's son, Joseph, has a story where he controls himself from sinning with Potiphar's wife. There are two explanations traditionally given for this. One is that Joseph was reminded of his father Jacob, and could not be un-righteuos. The other is that he remembered that Potiphar had given him rulership of Potiphar's entire household except for his wife. Out of appreciation for Potiphar, he could not sin with his wife. These two explanations are really one in the same. When Joseph was reminded of Jacob, he was reminded of the trait of appreciation, and therefore couldn't act unappreciative towards Potiphar.

There is a colloquial usage of the phrase "don't mention it" when people say "thank you." The phrase points up to the fact that people don't want just to be thanked in words. They want to be appreciated in the other person's own estimation.

In contrast, it can deeply hurt a person when he/she does something and is not appreciated. Rav Pam (am'ush) once found out that an engaged couple's parents were arguing about certain wedding plans. He said, "Woe, a month ago they felt such appreciation that they were making a match between their children, and now they are arguing." In contrast, a great Rav was asked if he followed one or another custom at his children's weddings. He replied that with three children he followed one custom and with the other three he followed the other custom, and it was always the other family's decision.

In a relationship, it pays to evaluate and question and further develop one's own appreciation. This is because of the nature of the commandment to appreciate others. The commandment is "bein adam l'atzmo", "between man and himself." It is a commandment that is about truth, not about lip service or satisfying an obligation. When a person has true appreciation, he will be able to do things that are humanly impossible.

We see this with Elijah in Kings I:Ch. 17 v. 17-24 when he breathed life into a baby out of appreciation of a widow who housed him previously. This is an impossible thing to do, but the strength of appreciation helped it happen. Elijah's appreciation of this widow, the sages say, was greater than his appreciation of his own parents. This seems odd, since honoring one's parents is such an important thing. The answer lies in the nature of the mitzvah being between a man and himself. There can be no importance decreed if the mitzvah is essentially between a man and himself, it has to be something he develops and grows himself, and sees as important on his own.

- Adapted from R. Reisman's class, Kings I:17:17-24 - 11/21/98


back to home page: