An Attitude of Gratitude

Aug 18, 2022

וְאָכַלְתָּ וְשָׂבָעְתָּ וּבֵרַכְתָּ אֶת־יְהֹוָה אֱלֹהֶיךָ עַל־הָאָרֶץ הַטֹּבָה אֲשֶׁר נָתַן־לָךְ׃

When you have eaten your fill, give thanks to Hashem your God for the good land which He has given you.

Deuteronomy 8:10

What if every holiday was Thanksgiving? What if instead of the Fourth of July we celebrated Thanksgiving? Memorial Day? Nope. Another Thanksgiving. New Year’s? Thanksgiving.  

When Moses is about to part from the people, he reminds them of everything God did for them up until that point (Deuteronomy 8). Some of it is really quite remarkable, emphasizing how God basically carried the Jews along for forty years. God brought manna, their clothes did not wear out, and their feet did not swell. And God brought them to a wonderful land. 

Moses then tells them that they will grow amazing food on the land while building houses and mining copper. And he reminds the people to thank God for all of it: “When you have eaten your fill, give thanks to Hashem your God for the good land which He has given you” (Deuteronomy 8:10). He warns the people not to grow “haughty” lest they forget about God and what he has done for them (Deuteronomy 8:14).

Well, who will be farming the land and mining the copper? Whose sweat will flow? Why should the people thank God when they are doing all of the sweating?

There is a story of a group of scientists who approach God and tell him that they no longer need Him since they have created life in a laboratory. God agrees, saying that if this is true, they have taken His place. But God demands to see a demonstration of their ‘divine’ powers. The scientists agree, beginning the demonstration by filling a flask with mud.

“Just a moment,” God said. “Bring your own mud. That’s the mud that I made in the six days of Creation.”

In his speech, in addition to reminding the Jews of everything God did for them until that point, Moses reminds the Jews of the covenant He made with their forefathers. True, they were about to enter into a period in which they would be required to work. And much of what would come would be a direct result of that work. But the foundation had been set by God, and without that basis they would never have even been presented with the opportunity to work the land or conquer it. 

Moses added words of wisdom that every person should remember:

and [lest] you say to yourselves, “My own power and the might of my own hand have won this wealth for me.”Remember that it is Hashem your God who gives you the power to get wealth, in fulfillment of the covenant that He made on oath with your fathers, as is still the case. Deuteronomy 8:17-18

Everything we do is accomplished through the grace of God. It was God that set the laws of nature. A good physicist understands why a ball returns to the earth after being thrown into the air. A great physicist understands that but also knows that it is precisely so because that is the way God created the world.

Every morning, even before praying, Jews spend quite a bit of time thanking God. As soon as we open our eyes, we recite “Modeh ani”, a simple expression of thanks that God returned our souls from wherever they went while we slept. We then recite “Birkot HaShachar”, a long list of blessings thanking God for who we are, for giving us the strength to awaken, and even for the rooster that woke us up.

The truth of the matter is that every holiday is Thanksgiving. Or, at least, should be. Because in reality, everything comes from God and we must be thankful for all that He does for us.

Thankfulness is truly one of the most beautiful traits. It is the antithesis of haughtiness and protects us from arrogance and resentment. It reminds us that we are dependent on a greater source and that we, ourselves, are limited. I did not create the world or the seeds of the tree. But with God’s help I merited to harvest its fruit and for that I am grateful.

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