Gratitude for the Torah
Rabbi Yisroel Fabian
In the Ethics of the Fathers (3:17), we are taught that derech eretz, good character, is a prerequisite for acquiring Torah. Rabbanu Yonah commenting on the Mishna says that a person should not think that he can first learn Torah and then develop good character because true Torah can not be acquired by a person who does not possess proper character.
Rav Chaim Vital, z”l in the Share Kedusha expresses a similar idea. Therein he asks why we do not find mitzvos (commandments) specifically dealing with good character. He answers that good character cannot be one of the mitzvos, because it is a prerequisite for all the mitzvos.
There are many attributes that make up good character. Rav Yitzchak Hutner, zt”l (Pachad Yitzchak, Shavuos #7) says that we might think that gratitude is just one of the many good character traits necessary to acquire Torah. He shows that this is not so from a comment of the RAMBAN (Nachmanidies) on Parshas Yisro (20:17).
Rather, the revelation at Sinai itself was a test to determine if the Jewish people possessed the attribute of gratitude. Since without gratitude it is impossible to properly internalize Torah they needed an opportunity to prove their capacity for this essential attribute. The miraculous revelation at Sinai supplied this opportunity.
Feeling gratitude for Hashem’s Torah is not just a nice thing, but the essential ingredient necessary for acquiring Torah and appreciating the Holiday of Shavuos. This is perhaps one of the messages of the saying of Rav Yosef “If not for that day (the giving of the Torah) how many Yosef’s are there in the marketplace” (Pesachim 68b).
May we all merit acquiring the quality of gratitude and to truly appreciate the wonderful gift of Torah that G-d has given us. Chag samach!