“Hakarat haTov” is the Jewish practice of “Recognizing the good.” “It is easy to see all the problems around us. There are so many it could be overwhelming. Political turmoil at home, the war in Ukraine, and on-going Covid uncertainty just to name a few. Hakarat Hatov is the Jewish technique to step back and see the bigger picture and acknowledge the good.
In this week’s Torah portion Moses sends forth 12 scouts to check out the Promised Land and bring back a report. Ten scouts return with a tale of pessimism and fear. Two other scouts, Joshua and Caleb, return with a humongous bundle of grapes and declare “It is a land of milk and honey (Numbers 13).”
They all saw the same thing, so why two different interpretations? According to Rabbi Jacob Ben Asher, a Torah commentator from the 1300’s, the ten scouts were unable to acknowledge the good, and only focused on the problems. Joshua and Caleb, on the other hand, were able to evaluate both the challenges and opportunities, the good and the bad, and could make a balanced assessment of what was possible. Joshua and Caleb, were able to recognize that the land was truly a blessed place of “Milk and Honey” and even brought some treats, the grapes, to let the people taste and experience the sweetness of the land for themselves. Joshua and Caleb publicly acknowledged the good and shared it with the community.
Since that Biblical episode long ago, it has become a tradition of Jewish Musar (spiritual enrichment practices) that we should publicly acknowledge the good around us. In this spirit I want to recognize the blessed contributions of Rabbi MJ Newman and Alli West to our congregation over decades of service, leadership and the finest music. There are truly no words to thank them enough. They deserve a hearty “Yasker Koach,” gratitude and blessings.
Tonight, we will celebrate Rabbi MJ Newman and Alli West. Please join us at the Temple for a Shabbat of Hakarat hatov, thanking Rabbi MJ and Alli for the good music and spirit we have all been blessed to enjoy.
Rabbi David Wilfond