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Beit Midrash Torah Portion and Tanach Yitro

Hakarat Hatov

Rabbi Yossef Carmel20 SHEVAT 5769
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A deep bond was forged between Yitro and his son-in-law, Moshe, which was the basis for the ties between Yitro’s descendants and Bnei Yisrael. This connection is the result of mutual hakarat hatov, recognition of the good that one has for what another has done for him. This is a form of following in Hashem’s path, as One who responds to people and their actions in kind.
The first thing that Yitro did which deserved Bnei Yisrael’s appreciation was his refusal to take part in the meeting that Paroh held to discuss the "Jewish problem." The gemara (Sota 11a) says: "There were three who were involved in Paroh’s plan: Bilam, who gave the advice, was killed. Iyov, who was silent, was judged with afflictions. Yitro, who ran away, merited having descendants sitting in the seat of the Sanhedrin.
Moshe ended up helping Yitro by saving the latter’s daughters from the shepherds. Yitro returned the favor by offering Moshe a place to stay ... and his daughter, Tzipora, as a wife. Hashem recognized Yitro’s generosity, as the midrash tells: "From here we learn that whoever accepted upon himself to do a mitzva, that mitzva does not leave his house. Yitro accepted a redeemer (Moshe) in his house who ran away from an enemy (Paroh). There arose in his house one (Yael) who accepted an enemy (Sisra) who ran away from a redeemer (Barak) and killed him" (Shemot Rabba 4).
After the Exodus from Egypt, Yitro renewed the relationship and at that time taught Bnei Yisrael another lesson in hakarat hatov. This time he recognized Hashem, saying: "Blessed is (baruch) Hashem, who saved you from the hand of Egypt and the hand of Paroh" (Shemot 18:10). Chazal even criticized Bnei Yisrael for not noticing the appropriateness of using baruch in thanking Hashem for the miracles (Sanhedrin 94a).
The mutual hakart hatov between Bnei Yisrael and Yitro’s family found expression after Bnei Yisrael settled in Eretz Yisrael, as well. The Beit Hamikdash was eventually built on a tract of land that belonged partially to the tribe of Yehuda and partially to that of Binyamin. This land was swapped with an area around Yericho, which was given for safekeeping to Yitro’s descendants. 1,000 years later, on the eve of the exile, Yirmiyah praised the family for this and said that they would always have members sitting of the Sanhedrin (Mechilta D’Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochai 18:27).
It is important for us to remember that those non-Jews who show us friendship and act with honesty toward us deserve commensurate appreciation. It is wrong when we do not return the favors or complain that they are not even more helpful than they already are.
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