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By: Rabbi Faivish Vogel, Chairman of the Centre for Jewish Life

I would very much appreciate your comment Each Thursday night at 8.00 pm we step, only just out of the house, to join the millions through out the UK , to clap and cheer for the the NATIONAL HEALTH SERVICE. And rightly so.

Enthusiasts take pots and pans to make even more noise in what has become a National ritual with parents explaining their most unusual  behaviour simply.  “ Show your appreciation!”    

This is just a fragment on the newly painted human  canvass,  upgrading the resolve to become more appreciative which has swept this country and indeed the entire world as we are chastened by our recent experience.

The impetus is certainly driven  by a universal guilt feeling.   Well what can be wrong with that?     

The upside of showing appreciation , incidentally contributes to the “ Feel good”  factor ,  recently adopted by  Psychologists and Psychiatrists, not to mention the clergy and the flood of Self-help books of the same genre.

Little research has to  be made to discover the original Biblical  narrative depicting the notion of Appreciation.

There’s hardly need to cite the very first engagement between G-d and  Adam and Eve , only hours after their creation.

After  G-d initiated the very first communication with Adam highlighting  his error in partaking of the forbidden fruit, Adam shot back.   “ The woman whom you gave to be with me, she gave of the tree and I ate.”

“ The very first”   engagement is surely packed with significance so let’s see what the Exegesis commentator- par excellence has to say.

Rashi  comments ,  “ Here,  he denied the good “  ( he received).

It wouldn’t need very much imagination to recognise the lasting significance of such an encounter.   Such an encounter would inevitably be seen  as the cornerstone of “correction “ in our relationship with G-d.

No comment at all would not raise eyebrows .  Rashi frequently  practises such but always, for a sound reason. For  it appears that Adam responded as most would.   Pass the buck !  Divert the blame in classic self defence mode.  

Rashi  ignores all this  and alerts us to a much deeper and very profound malaise.  

It could very well be , that Rashi saw in this lapse, the ultimate eternal flaw of egocentricity being the final arbiter in human behaviour.

(This would , in just  two generations  in Enosh’s  time,  according to Maimonides, flower into being the harbinger of idolatrous behaviour. 

Could it be , that a regular human being   be incapable of a totally altruistic and disinterested  act? Yes,  this will not hinder one saying “ Thank you “ but numerous Psychologists and Psychiatrists   are falling over each other in  adding caveats .     Besides “ enlightened self interest “ for starters, serious  probing of the Psyche uncovers layers below layers , reaching into the Alter ego which remains sovereign.

Could it really be that an expressed  genuine appreciation to an other, would declare and reveal to everyone ,   that in an other , lies a superiority of behaviour or character beyond one’s own ?  The Mystics  would reason that true altruism is Divine and for which reason, is incredibly rare.

Of course, next Thursday we will demonstrate our appreciation at the  front door.   But hopefully we will be among millions who whilst  recognising our shortcomings will continue to say the right thing along the long journey in overcoming the challenges of self-interest.

To be in touch, feel free to email faivish.vogel@googlemail.com

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