by Rabbi Yair Hoffman for 5tjt.com
The world is a better place because of Winston Churchill. He inspired the free world to fight against the evil of Hitler, yemach sh’mo. However, we, the world, demonstrated little appreciation for his crucial role in saving it. His own people put him out of office on July 5, 1945, less than two months after World War II ended on May 9, 1945. We had no hakaras ha’tov. We moved on without so much as a mumble of a thank-you.
Almost seven decades later, a new leader emerged who inspired hundreds of thousands, and yes, millions, toward a dream that they had thought was lost — the restoration of a Sunni Muslim caliphate. That leader used genocide, ethnic cleansings, and YouTube-publicized beheadings to achieve his aims. The name of his caliphate was ISIS, or ISIL, or Daeesh.
In 2016, then-presidential candidate Donald Trump promised he would defeat ISIS. By and large, as president, he pretty much did. In doing so, he saved more Muslims than any world leader in history. President Trump saved more Yazidi lives than any world leader in history. He stopped more slavery in overcoming ISIS than any leader of the modern world. His policies on Israel brought more peace treaties to the Mideast than any American president has ever achieved.ISIS eventually took over some 40 percent of Iraq, including its oil fields. It also had over one-third of Syria. And it captured the minds and souls of many radicalized Muslims throughout the United States and England. People rushed to join ISIS.
However, many have rejected him as we rejected Churchill back in July of 1945. True, President Trump does not have Churchill’s eloquence. He also made mistakes. But he was Israel’s friend, faithful and just to it.
The peace that President Trump presided upon is one where much of the Arab world sees eye to eye with Israel. He brought manufacturing home to the United States and he oversaw the lowest U.S. unemployment rate in half a century. We elected him once, not without cause. What withholds us now from expressing our hakaras ha’tov for all that he did?
The Central Obligation of Hakaras Ha’Tov
Hakaras ha’tov is central to Torah. Rav Michel Birnbaum, zt’l, the great mashgiach of MTJ, wrote in his Sichos Mussar (page 58) that our emunah is inextricably bound with the middah of hakaras ha’tov to Hashem. Rav Birnbaum writes that hakaras ha’tov is both to Hashem and to our fellow man.
To One’s Spouse. Rabbi Akiva in Kesuvos 63a tells his students those famous words, “Sheli v’shelachem, shelah — All my Torah, and all of your Torah, is hers!” referring to his wife. In this statement, Rabbi Akiva is telling everyone of the hakaras ha’tov that one must express to one’s wife. [This is something that must be reiterated and emphasized nowadays — doing so can save many a marriage.]
Past Failures. The Alter of Slabodka explains that Adam haRishon’s first aveirah was that, when confronted by Hashem about eating from the tree of knowledge, he laid blame on his wife and expressed a lack of appreciation. Hashem provided mankind with an “eizer kenegdo, a gift and helpmate by his side (one with greater binah)” and instead of saying thank you, Adam laid blame on her.
The Torah tells us, “V’lo haya mayim la’eidah, Klal Yisrael had no water (Bamidbar 20:2).” Why did we have no water? The Kli Yakar explains that we did not eulogize Miriam properly when she passed away and it was on account of our lack of hakaras ha’tov. To Miriam, in whose merit we had the Be’er Miriam, we should have expressed our appreciation better.
in his battle with Og, Moshe Rabbeinu was concerned that the debt of gratitude the nation of Israel owed Og for telling our forefather Avraham about Sarah’s kidnapping (see Rashi in Parashas Chukas 21:33–34) was significant. It was so significant that it could have changed the tide of the war.
Although it is a matter of tzniyus and good character not to show off wealth, there is a fascinating Rashi in Devarim 2:6 that we should purchase from the descendants of Eisav and not hide that which Hashem has given us, because hiding the good Hashem has done for us can be a manifestation of ingratitude.
We may not loathe the original Mitzrim (Devarim 23:8) because they were a source of shelter for us, which comes from the obligation of hakaras ha’tov. We must express this gratitude even though it was quite clear that they did so for their own designs and purposes.
Rashi explains that the entire parashah of Bikkurim (Devarim 26:3) is so that we develop to express hakaras ha’tov, genuine appreciation, and not be a kafui tov, an ingrate.
The world failed to express gratitude to Churchill for being the conduit of salvation from the evil that was Nazi Germany. We have failed to adequately thank President Trump for all that he has done for the world as well. Worse still, we have allowed the media to claim that he did not really do what he did. Denying the president his remarkable achievements is an expression of kafui tov, ingratitude. It is something that we should correct as soon as possible.
Rabbi Hoffman can be reached at [email protected].