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Monday, December 14, 2015

Hakarat Hatov Assembly 2015/5776

On Wednesday November 25, the students at Yeshivah of Flatbush had the zechut to listen to Rabbi Eli Cohen. He opened up his speech by saying that the origin of the Hebrew word for Jew, יהודי, comes from the word הודאה, which means to be, thankful. Rabbi Cohen stated that it is a natural thing for us as Jews to be thankful.

Even though it is a natural thing for us, Rabbi Cohen mentioned how people can be very unappreciative of extremely vital things. Our ability to hear is big deal. Yet, we don’t realize it and take it for granted. In fact, we often don’t appreciate things until they’re gone; all the little things we make a huge deal over, won’t matter till the important things are not there. Rabbi Cohen’s tip for being an appreciative person is to take time during the day to appreciate what you have, even the tiniest thing such as the ability to hear, will make you that person. But, as Rabbi Cohen say, “…The greatest gift in our lives, is something that none of us even realize that we have. And those who do realize it, don’t even appreciate even a millionth of how great and how special this gift is…our holy Torah.” Rabbi Cohen understands the reactions people might have. He understands that people may hear this and think, “The Torah? It’s full of discipline. Why would I be thankful for this?” Rabbi Cohen explained that in today’s world, we have everything. From A-Z the world is ours. The luxuries we have are nothing compared to what the richest people had a hundred years ago. Despite all of these seemingly good things, people are not happy. And statistics show that we really aren’t. In fact, Newsweek reported that 30% of college students are “too depressed to function.” How can that be in a time where we have everything?

Rabbi Cohen explains that no matter how much we have, we still have emptiness inside of us. How do we get rid of this empty feeling? By doing something good for others. Whether it’s reading תהילים or giving to charity, this kindness enhances our souls. Physically you don’t gain but internally, you get a feeling of fulfillment.

Rabbi Cohen says the world was created as a gift from God. Another gift is the Torah. The Torah guides us through our lives. It teaches us to be grateful yet, we unfortunately don’t appreciate the Torah. But the Torah gives advice on how to become closer to it. The line says to take things from the Torah little by little and then you learn how to be appreciative for everything.

Rabbi Cohen ended his speech by giving a story about a husband and wife. This couple had been married a few years and were struggling to have children. After three years of marriage, the wife was pregnant. There was much happiness in the air and now the couple had everything, except spirituality. The couple was very minimal on everything; no Shabbat, not so kosher, etc. During the sixth month, the wife noticed a bump on her stomach. The couple rushed to the hospital. Shortly after arriving, the mother was told she had to be operated on. Apparently, the baby was a רודף, a danger to either the mother or itself. The news devastated the couple and the father went into a corner. It was there the father made an oath. The father promised that, “If this baby is born, I promise that I will give G-d and I will give the Torah a second chance… Something small, I’ll start looking…” soon the doctor came out and the bump was gone. Two months later, a healthy baby boy was born. Shortly after, the couple started to become a little more observant. Soon, they became more observant and extremely happy. They felt like they were “living real life.” Rabbi Cohen confessed that the couple is his parents and that he is the baby. He concluded by saying that we’re all billionaires and we should all take advantage of what we have, Torah and all of our abilities. We don’t understand how lucky we are. God does so much for us and the little things should not be taken for granted.

Thank you, Rabbi Cohen for your lesson! ~Katie Fishel, Class of 2016