July 24, 2024

Hakarat Hatov: Noticing the Good and Doing Good

Two People Holding Hands

The world we live in today is chronically negative. From news coverage and conversations with friends to online content, it seems like everything prefers to focus on the bad. While there certainly is plenty, giving negativity a platform only makes things worse. That’s both a fact of life and a Jewish belief. In this article, we explore the Hebrew word used to define a life led by gratitude and optimism, hakarat hatov.

Hakarat Hatov Defined

Hakarat hatov is a Hebrew term that means ‘recognizing the good’. A fundamental teaching in Jewish law, it challenges us to develop an awareness of the blessings and gifts we receive daily. These can be both large and small and also come from different places. It’s easy to take simple things for granted, like waking up in the morning, having food to eat, or receiving a smile from a stranger. But hakarat hatov encourages us to pause and appreciate these everyday miracles.

What Recognizing the Good Looks Like

Hakarat hatov involves consciously taking note of the good things in our lives, from the most basic necessities to the people who care for us. It’s a shift in perspective that allows us to see the ever-present kindness surrounding us at any given moment.

This concept isn’t merely intended to promote self-fulfillment – it’s also an act of respect. G-d’s miraculous creations are often unappreciated and overlooked in the activities of everyday life. Our relationship with faith mustn’t only be through prayers and blessings but also through rituals of worship. The practice of hakarat hatov is an acknowledgment that nothing is owed to us, and that every blessing, no matter how small, is a gift.

Why Positivity Does Us All Good

Jewish history is full of examples of difficult times. Even today, peace in our homes and community synagogues can be hard to guarantee. Israel currently needs help with crises of unprecedented proportions as conflict continues to plague the region. But even as this negativity seeps through our borders, the power of noticing the good isn’t lost. It’s the best possible approach we can take to repair the world (tikkun olam). Individual male and female philanthropists, famous altruists, and prominent Chabad leaders alike have a role in making society a better place. 

Making Gratitude and Kindness an Everyday Practice

Recognizing the good isn’t always easy. In fact, recognizing the negative has become predominant across the world. But that can change when challenges are reframed into opportunities.

Hakarat hatov is not about ignoring or denying the challenges we face, but rather about maintaining a balanced outlook that recognizes both the ups and downs of life. It’s about cultivating resilience and finding reasons to be grateful even when things are tough.

A warm smile from a stranger, a beautiful sunset, a comforting hug from a friend – these are all moments of grace that we can choose to recognize and appreciate. It all starts with consciousness and ultimately ties back to the principle that all Jews are responsible for one another’s well-being, or ‘Kol Yisrael Arevim Zeh Bazeh’. 

How the Concept of Gratitude Underpins Jewish Tradition 

Hakarat hatov is closely tied to an overarching perspective of Judaism. We believe that building the world with kindness starts with mutual responsibility, and that requires empathy (kiddush hashem), humility (anavah), trust (bitachon), justice (tzedek), and human dignity and respect (kavod habriyot) towards others. 

Chabad rebbes say that every act of loving-kindness is a long-term investment. 

When practiced regularly, positive commandments (mitzvot) enrich our communities as a whole. Givers enjoy positive psychological benefits while recipients reap potentially life-changing returns. 

Many Jewish traditions promote compassion by design. For example, it’s customary to support organizations against poverty and charities for children’s education with donations on Chanukah. The meaning of Passover is tied to feeding and protecting the poor, whether through saving food (pe’ah) or directly contributing to non-profit hunger programs using online donation platforms

Recognizing the Good and Promoting It In Various Ways

From organizations that help orphans and widows’ groups to non-profits against hunger and community healthcare programs, support networks for families and individuals in need across the Jewish diaspora are both diverse and abundant.

There is no limit to the power of compassion or philanthropy (tzedakah), which can be both tangible and action-based, according to the Eight Degrees of Giving. Charity traditions like saving money for wheat (maos chitim) and tithing (ma’aser kesafim) provide an easy way to financially support nonprofits throughout the Jewish calendar year. 

Meanwhile, work and service are just as meaningful when performed by visiting the sick (bikur cholim) or extending hospitality (hachnasat orchim) to strangers.

Start Recognizing the Good with Colel Chabad

Israel has many long-standing Jewish charities worth supporting. If you’re looking to ensure your donations go far, consider contributing to Colel Chabad. Our historic organization serves vulnerable populations with critical programs that save souls and lives. The Chabad movement guides the work we do every day, while religious leaders and everyday givers make our work possible

Soup Kitchens

A good bowl of soup goes a long way in Israel’s hungriest communities. Our soup kitchens serve as a safe space people can turn to for communal support. 

Hospital Programs

Colel Chabad’s hospital programs are a source of light in the lives of sick children and their families. Volunteers visit patients to provide gifts, moral support, and company during the summer and charitable holidays

Big Brother/Big Sister Program

The Big Brother/Big Sister Program brings positive connections to vulnerable youth. Through donations to initiatives like this, we hope to enrich younger generations so they can thrive long-term. 

Make an Impact Today

Whether you sign up to volunteer or commit to regular financial donations, contributing to a Jewish charity is a way of recognizing and promoting good in the world. Don’t wait to get involved – join our wave of positivity at Colel Chabad today. 


Yizkor Donation

בַּעֲבוּר שֶׁבְּלִי נֶדֶר אֶתֵּן צְדָקָה