("Let's table the discussion" is a new Adath Israel Shul initiative where a story or thought is presented in order to stimulate exciting and constructive discussion around our Shabbos table or among friends and children.)
Once upon a time, there was a king who hired two musicians to help him pass the days. The first musician was instructed to play songs praising the king. He would compose songs of joy, songs that highlighted the great infrastructures and cities that the king had built. Other songs focused on the King’s prowess in war and in foreign policy where the king excelled. The songs were quite enjoyable for the King’s ears to hear and his court enjoyed the musician very much.
However, listening to the same song day after day and hour after hour can become boring after a while. Therefore, the king hired another musician – this one, a Jew – who would also sing songs of praise but instead of seeing them to the king, he would highlight praise to Hashem who created dark and light, controls the wind and the rains, what makes the grass grow and even gives the king his wisdom to govern the people appropriately.
One day, the king thought to himself: “Both my musicians are quite faithful to their job. Therefore, both deserve reward. However, the first one who always praises me deserves to receive the reward from me directly. Let God give the second one his reward. As such, he baked special royal bread for both of them. However, into the first he placed 20 gold coins.
When both musicians finished their shifts, they were given their special loaves. The first musician, seeing that his loaf was heavy, thought it to be inferior. “Let’s trade” he suggested to the Jewish fellow. “why not?” thought the Jew. “It’s Pas Akum anyway. Who cares if my chickens will eat heavy or light Pas Akum?” You can imagine his joy when his bread, and his decision to switch it, really paid off – to the tune of 20 gold coins.
The next day, both musicians effusively praised the king. However, contrary to the King’s expectations, the praise of the Jewish musician was even stronger than that of his gentile counterpart. Neither was able to reveal that they had traded a gift from the king. However, when the Jewish musicians began to praise the King’s wealth and the gift bestowed on him –the king quickly learned that the money were went to the wrong place. He decided to test his luck once again; this time, by placing poison into the bread given to Jewish musician. What he was hoping to achieve, no one would ever know –but one thing is clear of course, he would no longer have to hear the Jewish musician praise Hashem over the king.
Unfortunately for the king, as the Jewish musician’s family sat down to eat there was an intense knock on the door. The king’s son, the crown prince, burst into the home after a long day of hunting – famished. “Perhaps you have something for me to eat?” he asked the Jewish musician. “But of course, what luck?” came the quick reply, “I have fresh bread straight from your father’s table.”
Rav Yaakov Yosef of Polanoye, one of the main disciples of the Baal Shem Tov used to tell this story to highlight an important lesson of Hakaras HaTov. You see, we often assume that the requirement to be Makor Tov (to offer thanksgiving) ends when we thank those who are involved in helping us out. However, it goes without saying that those we offer thanks to, are merely agents of Hashem – who must also be included in our regimen of thank yous. How often do we remember to say thanks to one another but only halfheartedly remember a “Thank God” or Baruch Hashem to the one who orchestrates it all?
How can our idea of thanksgiving effect the way we daven and approach Hashem in our daily lives?
Let’s “table” the discussion – by discussing it with our children, spouses, families and guests and open an exciting discussion into our homes and community.