There is a famous Rashi commentary that is found in this week’s Sedra. As Moshe and his brother Aaron stand over the people of Egypt, about to unleash the might of Hashem, Moshe hands his staff to Aaron, for it was Aaron who would strike the Nile for it to become blood. The same is repeated for the next plague, as here too Aaron would strike the sand instead of Moshe.
Rashi immediately gives us an explanation. Moshe was unable to hit the sea or the sand because both of those elements were instrumental in saving his life. The sea hid him as a baby, protecting him from harm and the long reach of the Egyptian Taskmasters. Eventually he was found and saved by Batya, the daughter of Pharaoh, but the sea had hidden him safely. The sand also played its part, when Moshe buried the body of the Egyptian who was attacking a Jewish slave.
This simple gesture by Moshe enabled him to show sincere gratitude to these elements for their part in his survival. Rashi uses the terminology of Hakarat Hatov. From here our sages elucidate that just as Moshe showed appreciation to inanimate objects, so too should we appreciate the kindness of those around us, even more so in fact.
However, if Hakarat Hatov is to show gratitude and be thankful to something or someone, what benefit is the ground getting from not being hit by Moshe? Why was it so important for the water not to be struck by the hand of Moshe, when Aaron would step up and perform those very same actions mere moments later?
The answer is found within the translation of the words Hakarat Hatov. If we take them precisely, the words literally mean to ‘recognise good’. Therefore, Hakarat Hatov is not necessarily to be grateful, but it really means to see the good in the actions and sentiments of others.
Moshe had seen the good in these elements; therefore to remind him of that good, he refrained from hitting them himself.
This lesson is fundamental and also twofold. Firstly, we are implored to continually attempt to see the good in all. We should approach life and relationships with positivity and care, seeing the good in people and their actions. I am sure we can all appreciate even at times when we have the best of intentions, that this is not always reflected in the end results. We should therefore look for the sincerity that people show us, even if the act misses the mark.
Secondly, we have to remember the good others have done. Far too often we tend to lose perspective when we are hurt or feel wronged, but our challenge is to remember and appreciate what others have done for us, reminding ourselves of this even when relationships feel strained.
If we can internalise and use these tactics, heed warning from the greatness and sensitivity of our great leader Moshe, we will enhance our lives and our relationships, and do our small bit to increase peace in the world.