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Entries in Gratitude (2)



In recent months I keep coming back to this Torah, and I feel compelled to write about it. I am not going to write much that is original here, but it comes from the heart.

The Midrash (Tanchuma Shelach 7) tells us when the twelve spies were traversing the land of Canaan, G-d sent a plague so that the inhabitants would be busy burying their dead and hence not notice the spies (in the Talmud, G-d smites a governor or noble, to the same end ).

But the spies came back and reported this as yet another negative trait of the land. The Talmud (Sotah 35a) records:

It is a land that eats up its inhabitants. Raba expounded: The Holy One, blessed be He, said: I intended this for good but they thought it in a bad sense. I intended this for good, because wherever [the spies] came, the chief [of the inhabitants] died, so that they should be occupied [with his burial] and not inquire about them.

So many times things have occurred in my life that seem very negative, and I have moaned and complained about them. Yet it is so easy to imagine that behind the scenes, these very occurrences are the very best thing that could have happened to me.

I just can't see it, as I have on my negative glasses, my kvetchy "spyglasses".

The G-d described in the Talmudic passage would no doubt say to me, a little sharply, a little compassionately: "Hey, hey, sister, a bit of gratitude here. Everything has been organised for your own good, so stop whining and get with the plan." (Well, maybe not quite in those words...)

And the royal route into doing that is gratitude practice. Daily, hourly, every moment. Thank you Hashem for all of it.



Haman the Ungrateful

As R Shalom Arush points out, Haman's evil lies in his not being satisfied with his life. Haman says in Esther 5:13:

וְכָל זֶה אֵינֶנּוּ שׁוֶֹה לִי בְּכָל עֵת אֲשֶׁר אֲנִי רֹאֶה אֶת מָרְדֳּכַי הַיְּהוּדִי יוֹשֵׁב בְּשַׁעַר הַמֶּלֶךְ

Yet all this avails me nothing, so long as I see Mordecai the Jew sitting at the king’s gate.

Haman had so much - supportive wife, many children, friends, high position, wealth, but he cared about none of it because he was eating himself up alive over another person. This is the essence of Amalek. Being ungrateful means you are seeing daily miracles and scoffing at them, belittling - which is what Amalek, Haman's ancestors, did after the miracles in Egypt.

My friend Mosheh Givental pointed out to me that we Jews go by three names: עברים - meaning we are boundary-crossers; ישראלים, we are Godwrestlers; and יהודים, we are thankers - Jew coming from Judah, whose name came from his mother's decision to stop pining after Jacob's love, after her lack, but thank instead for what she had.
The person known most prominently as the יהודי in the Tanach is Mordechai. Mordechai the grateful (though I don't know if we necessarily see this trait explicit in the megillah - what do you think?)

Hold him up against Haman the Ungrateful and contrast.

The joy and gratitude of Purim prepares us for the דיינו of Pesach. And that is freedom - where no matter what happens in our lives, we hold on to our inner practice of gratitude.