As a way to prepare for the High Holidays, I re-read Words That Hurt, Words That Heal: How to Choose Words Wisely and Well by Rabbi Telushkin last Shabbat. I unfortunately believe that, in this area, there is always room for improvement, at least as far as I am concerned.
After dealing with the power of speech and Jewish law on this topic, Rabbi Telushki devotes a chapter to “words that heal”. He cites Rabbi Riemer and a sermon he once delivered on Yom Kippur asking his congregants to be careful about what they say to others. He urged them to use four simple phrases more often in their every day dealings with their fellow men. Rabbi Telushkin then suggests we add another one.
The first sentence is to say “thank you” more frequently. This reminded me of an anecdote I read in a parshah commentary by Rabbi Sacks a couple of weeks ago.
Because of his functions, Britain’s chief rabbi and his wife regularly give dinner parties. Obviously when these visitors leave they thank their hosts. Yet once a guest also asked to be taken to the kitchen to thank the people who had made and served the food. This unusual guest was no other than John Major, Britain’s former Prime Minister. He may have been less charismatic than his predecessor but he was obviously a man who did not believe it was below him to express gratitude.
Every day we come across a lot of people who do things for us – whether they are relatives, friends, colleagues, cleaners… Thanking them is easy, takes very little time and contributes to making the world a better place, even if it is in a very modest way.