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The Gratitude Attitude

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That you shall take of the first of all the fruit of the ground, which you will bring from your land. . . And you shall call out and say before Hashem, your God, “An Aramean [sought to] destroy my forefather . . .” (Devarim 26:2-5)


The mitzvah of bringing the bikkurim, first fruits of the seven species was done with great fanfare. It was specifically brought in the lead up to Succos, a time designated to serving Hashem with joy;[1] the Leviim would sing, and it would be a time of great thanksgiving.[2] Yet, among this ostentatious moment of gratitude, the person bringing the fruits would need to raise his voice and declare: “An Arami (Lavan) sought to destroy my forefather (Yaakov).”[3] What is the significance of mentioning that Lavan tried to kill Yaakov, specifically at this time of thanksgiving?

In a discourse about the importance of gratitude, Rav Wolbe cautioned that human nature is to subconsciously reject feelings of appreciation to others so as not to feel beholden to them.[4] In this vein, the Chassam Sofer was known to have questioned why a member of his community had began to pursue him so ruthlessly considering that the Chassam Sofer had no recollection of doing any favor for this man!

The person who represents the opposite of gratitude is Lavan. The Medrash says that before Yaakov came to Lavan, he only had daughters and limited means, but as soon as Yaakov came, Lavan began to have sons and was immediately blessed with tremendous prosperity.[5]  Yet, in all of that time, he treated Yaakov without care[6] and when Yaakov finally left, Lavan came with his sons — the same sons who were only given to Lavan in Yaakov’s merit — to kill him.[7] Thus, the Alshich refers to Lavan as the epitome of an ingrate.[8]

Perhaps then, the reason why Lavan’s ingratitude is recalled specifically at the time of thanksgiving is to distance those offering thanks from negative feelings towards their Benefactor. Perhaps, too, this is the reason why this mitzvah was orchestrated with such joy — to imbue the importance of gratitude that one must have and counteract the evil nature of being ungrateful.[9]

Although we do not have the Bikkurim today, this should not prevent us from learning the message that accompanied them: to give thanks to those who have provided us a benefit and be particularly weary of the natural inclination to look for excuses to look badly at those who have sought our wellbeing. This applies to our relationship with Hashem as much as it does to our family, our friends and even ourselves.[10]


By Rabbi Moshe Kormornick, author of Short Vort, available in stores worldwide



[1] Rashi. Devarim 26:11.

[2] HaKsav V’HaKaballah. Ibid.

[3] Devarim 26:5 with Rashi.

[4] Alei Shor, pg.281.

[5] Bereishis Rabbah, 73:12.

[6] See Bereishis 31:38-41 with Rashi.

[7] Bereishis 31:46.

[8] Shoshanas Amukim, Shir HaShirim 6:5.

[9] The verse in Mishlei says, “He who repays evil with good — evil will not depart from his house” (17:13).

[10] See Alei Shor. Pg.278-279.


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