The Minute Vort: Katonti


eli schellerBy Eli Scheller 

When someone is the recipient of a shower of kindness and gifts from another, there are two possible responses. He can appreciate the gifts when they are first given, but then slowly become accustomed to the generosity, and then he may take it for granted. He may even get irritated at his benefactor for not continuing to deliver the kindness which he has come to expect. Each subsequent act of benevolence makes him less appreciative and haughtier. For example, a parent, out of compassion, deposits a check into his child’s bank account. Surprised and appreciative the child calls to thank the parent profusely. The next month the parent deposits another check into the account, but the child forgets to call. The next month, once again, the generous parent deposits more money and, this time, the child does call – asking for a greater amount.

There is another response: the recipient appreciates the gifts when they are first given, but feels unworthy of such largesse. He recognizes that he did nothing to earn the benevolence, and, therefore, he does not expect it. Receiving the kindness may even be a bit embarrassing to him. Each subsequent act of benevolence makes him even more appreciative and humble.

Yaakov chose the latter response. Despite his travails, Yaakov said to G-d, “K’tonti, I have been humbled by your steady flow of kindness that you have done for me. I crossed the Jordan with just a staff in my hand and now you blessed me with a large family of two camps” (Sfas Emes).

When one recognizes all of the blessings in his life that G-d has granted him, he’ll begin to feel very appreciative and humbled, yet, at the same time he will feel empowered. After all, he is the recipient of generosity from the greatest benefactor. Indeed, the Talmud states (Sota 5a) that a Torah scholar must have one eighth of an eighth of haughtiness. The unique choice of words the Talmud uses “an eighth of an eighth” is hinting at the eighth verse in the eighth Torah portion – “k’tonti mikal hachasadim”: become humbled from all the kindness you were blessed with, but remember to feel privileged that you were blessed (Vilna Gaon).

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