“Hashem gave Cain a sign.” According to one view of the Midrash, Hashem gave Cain a dog to accompany him. What was the significance of giving Cain specifically a dog? The Chafetz Chaim explained that the Midrash says that Abel was stronger than Cain and in the original altercation Abel was in the position to kill his brother. Cain pleaded with him to have mercy and spare his life. After he was released, Cain attacked Abel when he was unprepared and was thus able to kill him. According to this, Cain came to kill his brother because of his lack of Hakarat HaTov, an ability to show gratitude to someone who had performed a kindness to him. It was for this reason that Hashem gave him a dog to accompany him, since a dog is known for its Hakarat HaTov and total devotion to its master who feeds it. Our Sages say (Horayot 13a): The dog recognizes its master. Its appreciation is so great that it will sacrifice its own life to protect its master. By giving him a dog as a companion, Hashem afforded him the constant reminder of the importance of demonstrating Hakarat HaTov, and hoped in this manner he would correct this most serious deficiency in his character.
If the character trait so prized in this narrative is thankfulness, we should try, with the Torah’s help, to recognize the good things and the good people in our lives and be grateful for them. There is also a Divine element to this recognition. By being grateful, we acknowledge a power beyond our own hands and personalities, a force to thank for the good that comes our way. We could attribute good fortune to serendipity, but to give thanks to God for the gifts that are ours is to adopt a central tenet of Judaism. We are called Jews after our ancestor Judah, whose name in Hebrew means “Thank You”, so to have thanks on our lips and in our hearts is to be Jew in the greatest sense.
A Good Shabbas! Please attend or Zoom into our service this Friday evening at 7:00 PM.
Shabbat Shalom שבת שלום.
Rabbi David Grossman
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