Chanukah-Blessing18: Modim: Recognition or Gratitude?
“Ha’tov shimcha u’l’cha na’eh l’hodot”- “Your Name is ‘The Beneficent One’ and to You, it is fitting to give thanks.” There is a difference between “hakarat ha’tov”, recognition of how I have benefited (from another) and “hoda’ah”, thanks, or gratitude.
When the four kings defeated the five kings in Genesis, Abraham’s nephew, Lot, is captured. Og, the giant, tells Abraham that his nephew was taken captive. Og did not act in order to help Abraham, but his true motive was that Abraham would fight to save Lot, get killed, and then Og would be able to marry Sarah, Abraham’s wife.
His intentions were evil, however, his scheme fails. Abraham wins the war and saves Lot.
Four hundred and sixty years later, Moses has to go into battle against the army of Bashan whose king is Og, the giant. Moses was scared, not because Og was a giant, but because he realized that he owes Og some degree of Hakarat ha’tov. Og helped Abraham despite of the fact that his intentions were evil. Does Moses need to thank him? Definitely not! But he does need to acknowledge that his debt to him.
With human beings, we all have to have hakarat ha’tov to those from whom we benefited, no matter their intentions and motivations. We must acknowledge that we benefited from another human being or even from a situation that was created through them. But, we are not obligated to thank them. We often feel that there is a discrepancy between the recognition we should acknowledge and the gratitude we should show a person, as people’s agendas often lack integrity and transparency.
When it comes to God, every time we have hakarat ha’tov for something He does for us, we also have to show hoda’a. With God, there is never a contradiction between the thanks and the recognition.
That is why “u’l’cha na’eh l’hodot”, to You, it is pleasant, and it is fitting to give thanks.