The tribe of Moab where descendants of Lot, whose benefactor and savior was his Uncle Abraham, father of the Israelites. In the wilderness, this tribe refused to even sell the Israelites food and water. For that reason, they are banned by the Bible, from joining the Jewish people in marriage. The lack of gratitude on their part, was indicative of an ingrained selfishness and mean spirited character that has no place in Israel.
Gratitude goes much further than just telling someone thank you for having done something nice for you. The Torah says, "Do not despise the Egyptian, because, you were a stranger in their land." Now, this is somewhat difficult to comprehend.
It was Joseph an Israelite, who saved the Egyptians from starvation during the years of famine. Shortly afterwards, the thank you granted by the Egyptians was to slaughter the Israelites. They threw the babies in the river and enslaved them for hundreds of years. According to the Midrash, Pharaoh had 200 children slaughtered over his bathtub each and every day so that he could bathe in their blood! How can anyone have gratitude for savages of this sort?
Granted they initially allowed the Israelites to dwell in their land, but surely the Israelites paid a price for all that, with the hundreds of years of slavery. And yet the Bible commands us to have a sense of gratitude and indebtedness for them. How does one make sense of this directive?
The answer is very important, very fundamental. Gratitude, is not only because someone intended and did something nice for you. If you merely benefited, that's the keyword, if you where in any way, shape or form helped, from somebody or even something, you are expected to note that kindness and have a real sense of appreciation for the good done.
That is why, for the first plague against the Egyptians, blood, Moses would not hit the Nile River, and turn it into blood. He asked his older brother Aaron to do the “dirty work.” Although water is inanimate and could care less whether Moses lived or died, however, since Moses benefited from the river, it saved his life when his mother placed him in a basket on the river, he felt a sense of indebtedness and gratitude to the river and could not strike it now.
The Talmud says, "The well you drank from, do not throw rocks into it". Even though the well has no feelings or thoughts, nevertheless, since you benefited from it, you must not act insensitively towards the water. You must show gratitude and not act ungratefully towards it.
A most important gratitude a person must have is towards his parents. They gave you life. You might say, "well, who cares, they didn't do it for me.” “They were obligated to raise me." It doesn't matter. If you benefited from them, you must demonstrate gratitude. Doesn't matter if they did it out of niceness, or they did it because they had to, you benefited - you must have gratitude. And if you don't ….well we already said …. It’s not good at all.
The Midrash says, "Every breath you take, you are obligated to thank G-d." The reason, is that you're benefiting from His air. He created it. You have to thank Him for every breath. And if you don't think it's important, try putting your head in a bucket of water and see how long you can last without air.
Every morning the first thing we do after opening our eyes, we place our hands together and “thank G-d for returning our souls to us.” What a wonderful, positive way, to start the day, by acknowledging the blessings and the good we have in life.
On this thanksgiving weekend, let us pay more attention to all the good we have been blessed with. This great Country of ours. A beacon of strength and light to the rest of the Universe.