Jewish Value of the Week: Gratitude, Brachot
An old legend teaches that when all the works of creation were completed, God asked the angels what they thought of the handiwork. “Only one thing is lacking,” the angels said. “It is the sound of praise to the Creator.”
The story continues, God created the whisper of the wind, the song of the birds, and the sound of music, and planted a melody in the hearts of children. And it wasn’t long before humans — always eager to imitate God — added their own beauty to the world.
Reciting blessings is a way of expressing gratitude to God. Blessings are, in a sense, a “thank you” to God.
The Hebrew word for “thank you” is todah, which means “to admit.” You passed me the salt, helped me in business, changed my tire or raised me from childhood, and I thank you for that. When I thank you; when someone thanks another person, it is actually means “I couldn’t have done it without you.”
When we express our gratitude and thanks through blessings, we recognize our dependence on others and acknowledge the assistance we receive. When dependence is acknowledged through thanks, it facilitates harmony, bonding and freedom.
Teach your children to give thanks in the words of the modern poet Ruth Brin: “… for the blessing You bestow openly, and for those You give in secret…for the blessings I recognize, and for those I fail to recognize … for the blessings that surround me on every side.”
Family Talk Time
- Make a list the things to which thanks can be given. Start in the morning and continue throughout the day. One of our sages told us to say 100 blessings every day — see if you can come up with 100 things.
- The Jewish value of Bal Taschit is the command not to destroy. Discuss the importance of environmental protection and ways in which you practice conservation.
Abraham is told by God that he will be a blessing. What does it mean to BE a blessing?
A Story for Shabbat: David and the Spider
— from ‘Brainteasers From Jewish Folklore’ by Rosalind Chaney Kaye
Long before David was king, he came upon a spider in his garden.
“Lord,” he said, “You have created many beautiful and wondrous things. But what good could a spider be to anyone? Surely you have made a mistake.”
“There will be a time,” God answered, “when this little mistake will be a great use to you.”
And the time did indeed come. King Saul became jealous of David. He ordered his soldiers to follow David into the wilderness to kill him. David slipped into a cave just before Saul’s soldiers came upon him.
As David crouched at the back of the cave, he watched a spider swiftly spin a web across the cave’s entrance. This thin web was enough to keep the soldiers out, even with their knives and swords. How?
When the soldiers saw an unbroken web across the cave entrance, they assumed that no one had entered the cave in many days, and so they didn’t search it. David’s life was saved, and he understood that people depend on all God’s creatures.
Laura Seymour is director of camping services and Jewish life and learning at the Jewish Community Center of Dallas.