14 Tamuz 5781 / Thursday, June 24, 2021 | Torah Reading: Balak
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Gratitude First    

Gratitude First

When we offer sincere statements of gratitude, we are immunizing ourselves from the two most potent spiritual toxins, a sense of entitlement and the spirit of arrogance…


In the Nishmas prayer that we say on Shabbos morning, we say that even if we were to make prolonged superhuman efforts to thank Hashem, our thanks would be insufficient to display gratitude for even one of the trillions of favors He's done for us and our forefathers. In the same prayer we are told that we are obligated to thank Hashem. Does Hashem really need our thanks?


The answer is that we're the ones that benefit from expressions of thanks. When we offer sincere statements of gratitude, we are immunizing ourselves from the two most potent spiritual toxins, a sense of entitlement and the spirit of arrogance where we believe that all of our accomplishments are due to the might of our right hand. Rebbe Nachman says that the more we thank Hashem the more He'll give us to be thankful for. How can the Rebbe confidently give us this spiritual blank check?


Those of us who are parents hear constant requests from our children. We have a heartfelt desire to give them what they want. Nevertheless, we're not about to subsidize bad behavior or give to them in ways that are harmful. How much more so does Hashem the most compassionate parent want to give to us! When we thank Him with sincerity, He knows that He can give us additional blessings without “spoiling us” or harming our souls. Sincere expressions of gratitude create vessels so that we can receive success and abundance without them contributing to a sense of entitlement or an inflated ego.


How can we incorporate these powerful insights into our lives on a regular basis?


Each day, we start off with the declaration Modeh Ani as we thank Hashem for restoring our souls to us. Unless we are careful, we can recite this in a rote or mechanical manner. Someone recently told me that her grandfather used to wish her a happy birthday whenever he saw her. Her grandfather said “Hashem is giving you a new day of life, happy birthday!” Each morning I try to remember this before I say Modeh Ani and wish myself a happy birthday. This reminds me that I'm born anew every day! By doing so, I am celebrating the new day and accepting it as a beautiful gift. This gets the day off to a fantastic start.


In our personal prayers, it's best to start out with statements of thanks to Hashem. Rabbi Shalom Arush says that we should take our time and not skimp on statements of gratitude. We should give detailed and extensive thanks for all our blessings. When we do this, it sets the foundation for successful personal prayer by making us feel a greater appreciation and love for Hashem.


Whenever we ask for Hashem's forgiveness, we can do so confidently after contemplating His amazing kindness and compassion. We know in our hearts that Hashem loves us and that He truly is willing to forgive us. Moreover, when we realize how much Hashem does for us and how much He loves us, we become determined not to disappoint Him or cause Him pain. When this is our motivation for constructive change, it becomes true repentance with love. This type of repentance – Teshuva from love - can transform our sins into merits! This is one of the most powerful and uplifting concepts in Judaism.


When we begin our prayers with extensive expressions of gratitude, our requests will not appear to be complaints. Hashem will say “I see that his main priority is thanking Me for his blessings. I see how much he has other needs and how much he is in pain. Now I'm really going to give him something to be thankful for!”


Rabbi Arush recommends we keep a gratitude journal and transcribe all the good things that happen to us each day. This is an extremely effective technique to ensure we notice and remember all the benevolence we receive. Each day in our personal prayers we can refer to all these journal entries and give detailed thanks to Hashem. On Shabbos, when our main personal prayer priority is gratitude, we’ll have a whole week’s worth of kindness for which we can thank Hashem. Without the journal we’re likely to forget a major share of these gifts.


May we always remember that our successes and possessions are the result of the kindness of Hashem. Let’s make gratitude a primary facet of our daily regimen. In this way, Hashem will do what He as a loving Father really yearns to do. He’ll open up the gates of abundance and send blessings and salvations for us and all Israel.

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