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Being Grateful (December 2015)

11/03/2016 10:09:30 AM


Since my early years of  learning, I was struck by the great sages’ instruction that we should bless G-d for all the good that comes into our life, but also bless Hashem for all evil.

Really? Do I  truly want to do this? Do I wish to make a bracha, when my heart is breaking and thank G-d when my loved one dies, my family or friends are hurt, or there are horrendous tragedies in the world?  Indeed, what has been happening in Israel, France and so much of the world brings us to this blessing of “Dayan HaEmet”… You are the True Judge.”

How can we understand this, and how does  this fit in with being joyful and grateful, which is one of the prime messages of Chanukah? I owe this thought to Rabbi Avi Kilimnick.

Rabbi Kilimnick in an article on “Being Thankful on Chanukah”, writes:

“Chanukah is a time of LiHodot UliHallel- to give thanks and praise to G-d for the wonderful Miracles that He performed on behalf of our  nation at the time of Chanukah. It would seem as though we are asked to transcend reality in order to give proper recognitions to our creator. We were not present to experience the miracles, yet through the lighting of the Menorah, we transport ourselves to a different place, a different time, we are in the holy Temple, lighting the candelabra, with the oil that was only supposed to last one day, and we celebrate a victory that was against all odds, over the Hellenistic rule which was threatening the survival of our Jewish faith. What a beautiful moment of gratitude and praise.”

Now at the time Rabbi Kilimnick  wrote this, we were undergoing in the United States,  the after effects of Hurricane Sandy and Israel was once again defending itself from its enemy. Therefore, he writes: “Then reality hits… And we think about the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy, where so many still suffer the loss of shelter, electricity and the possessions which carried the memories of life. We think of the ongoing threat of constant rocket fire aimed at our brothers and sisters in Eretz Yisroel, which ruin any sense of security. And to our Israeli soldiers and their families who once again put their lives on the front line to protect our Homeland. These are the realistic events that challenge our ability for “LiHodot UliHallelodot UliHallel .”

I very much appreciate his teaching next as he learns from King David.  King David himself faced the same dilemma. As he wrote in Psalm 142 Verse 8   “Release my soul from confinement that I may give thanks to your name.”

“King David realized that the reality of struggle does affect the soul. Pain and opposition closes the soul from what it would like to do, to praise G-d. From King David we can learn two different ways of how to express gratitude to our creator. There are times, which we hope are most, when we are actually joyful, where we are able to dance and sing for something great that has happened. We would all prefer this type of celebration.

However, there is another way to thank G-d, which is to “Want” to thank Him. For a person to desire the ability to Thank G-d is in it of itself a way of showing gratitude to our creator. Even at the most difficult moments, to not allow the pain and struggle to define who we are, to say that “I want to be thankful, just right now it’s very difficult” is another way of showing our appreciation to G-d.

Isn’t that an amazing thought to ponder?  May we have many reasons and occasions to be grateful, but even when we are confronted with sorrow and tragedy, may we “want” to be grateful.

Perhaps, the word here is acceptance.

Rabbi Mitchell Kornspan

Fri, December 3 2021 29 Kislev 5782