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Weekly Emails "Shabbat Shalom from Bangkok"

Indebted. Y/N?

By the Grace of G-d

Dear Friend,

Indebtedness.

Is it a good thing or not?

Probably depends who you are indebted to.

Let’s think about this in the context of this week’s Torah portion.

Avraham goes down to Egypt with Sarah his wife, Avraham’s life is saved in the merit of his wife. He is also granted lavish gifts by the king of Egypt in her merit.

The Zohar comments: ‘ Even though Abraham feared G‑d, he did not rely on his own merit. He did not ask G‑d to save [Sarah] in his own merit, but rather in hers . He [Avraham] knew that it was through her merit that he would accumulate wealth from the other nations, since a man acquires money in the merit of his wife. . . . He relied on her merit that he would not be hurt and that she would not be touched’.

Click here for a fascinating article on this topic.

(For all the men reading this column, The Torah says in no uncertain terms that ‘a man acquires money in the merit of his wife’ i.e. the blessings of life come in the merit of the wife, that ought to be enough of an incentive to treat our wives even better than we have till now).

Then there is a further story told about Avraham in this week Parsha.

Avraham was offered by the King of Sodom ‘give me the people you have rescued from my kingdom and keep the belongings you have retrieved for yourself. This will be my reward to you for having come to my aid.’

Avraham’s response was clear and decisive.

‘Abram said to the king of Sodom… not even a thread or a shoelace will I retain from the returned belongings, nor will I take anything that you offer me from your treasury as payment, so you will not be able to say ‘it was I who made Abram rich’. God has promised to make me rich; I rely solely on His promise’.

Abraham did not agree to take anything and thus be indebted in any way to the king of Sodom.

In contrast, to his wife he stated, ‘through you my life will be spared’. Thus, indicating the he would forever be indebted to her.

I was imagining that this must have reflected superbly in the subsequent years of Avraham and Sara’s marriage.

It seems to be a no brainer. If a husband feels indebted to his wife, and vice versa, they will have a wonderful marriage.

The way I see it, feeling indebted to a spouse will mean that you appreciate them, that you go out of your way to make their lives more enjoyable and meaningful.

Being indebted to the king of the wicked kingdom of Sodom would however be very wrong and thus Avraham desisted accepting any gifts from him. It would be like being indebted to the mafia. Not good.

So, it seems quite clear that it all depends who we are indebted to.

We are all indebted to G-d for starters. This is basic and fundamental.

The beginning of the Ten Commandments reads ‘I am Hashem who took you out of Egypt….’ We are thus indebted to Him for our freedom and liberty.

Moreover, the opening words of the Torah ‘In the beginning G-d created heaven and earth’ spell out that we are all indebted to Him for our very existence.

Our parents as well deserve our indebtedness.

The fifth of the Ten Commandments is the honor we are obligated to give to our father and mother. To them we are indebted as they brought us into the world. They are two out the three partners in the bringing to this world of every person. Father, mother, and G-d.

This is why the Torah obligation of honoring parents is non-negotiable.

Click here to see a wealth of information about the mitzvah of honoring one’s parent.

I thought and still think that feeling indebted to one’s spouse would be quite the right thing.

Apparently, it is not something that all agree on in these confusing times. I tried entering these words into google: ‘I feel indebted to my wife’ and I hit the search button.

I wasn’t prepared for the first article that popped up in google which was titled ‘How to Stop Feeling Indebted to Your Spouse: 12 steps’.

Oops. I realized I had some thinking to do.

Is my thinking right or is googles article correct?

Is feeling indebted good or not?

I haven’t read the google entries. I have read the Parsha though.

And in my understanding of the Parsha being indebted to a spouse (in a healthy way) and expressing gratitude for the immense gifts they bring to your life, is quite the right way to go.

If you are married, please take this to heart. Maybe just maybe if more of us practiced better gratitude practices, the rate of divorces would drop. That would be nice (albeit in some cases divorce is indeed the best way forward, in many cases it could have been avoided if better behavior would have been practiced).

For all of us, let us remember our indebtedness to G-d.

Today I had the merit of helping someone put on Tefilin and I told him that besides for reading the Shma and prayers in the Prayer Book, it is a Mitzvah to pray to G-d for anything you need, and you can pray in your own words and your own language.

He raised his hands to heaven and said two words that summed up his feeling towards G-d at that moment:

 ‘TATTEH TODAH’

which translates into English, FATHER THANKS!!!!

He was thanking G-d for the good month he had in his business this month. I wasn't expecting that 'two worder' and it touched me deeply. Simple but profound and meaningful. 

It reminded me that we can always do more thanking of G-d. And we should do more thanking. Become more appreciative and gratitude filled. Even to the point of feeling indebted.

We have started a family custom at our Shabbat table and other occasions.

Each of us shares something that we want to thank Hashem for. We say it out loud. It makes us realize how bountiful G-d’s blessings are. From the big things, to the very small details.

May Hashem bless you and your loved ones with many happy and healthy things to thank Him for!

Shabbat Shalom,

Rabbi Yosef Kantor

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