13 Sivan 5779 / Sunday, June 16, 2019 | Torah Reading: Shelach Lecho
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The Missing Tooth    

The Missing Tooth

By way of gratitude, one internalizes the truth that everything Hashem does is for the very best; miracles that come from gratitude reinforce this point…


One of my students told me the story about when he and his friends went to the beach. The Mediterranean was rough that day and the waves were powerful. Even though they swam close to the shore in a shallow area, the strong waves repeatedly washed over them. Suddenly, my student felt his artificial tooth – a gold crown - drop into the water. He was upset about this because this crown had cost him a lot of money. If he had at least caught it, he could have it reattached at the dentist, sparing the time, expense and trouble of getting a whole new tooth made. But now that it fell into the water, even if the waves calmed down, he’d have no chance of finding some tiny tooth on the sandy floor of the sea. All the more so with the stormy conditions and high waves – there was just no way he would find it.


He was sorely disappointed. But suddenly, he remembered hearing my classes on giving thanks. He said to himself, “The first thing I need to do is say ‘thank You’. I don’t understand anything. And, surely, everything is for the best. Therefore, I need to let go of my will and accept the will of the Creator to receive this with love. I must surrender to what has obviously been decreed upon me from Above – as it is for my very best – and show my gratitude for it.”


The young man began to thank the Creator sincerely that his tooth fell. He was standing in the water and thanking the Creator for about twenty minutes when, suddenly, the waves calmed down. He looked down and there was his tooth, resting atop the sandy sea floor! He was shocked by the power of gratitude. He didn’t understand how this was possible, after so much time had passed. What's more, he had moved from where he had originally had lost the tooth, not even remembering where exactly that place was. Now, suddenly, he sees his tooth, resting on the sea floor in plain sight. To him, this was a revealed miracle – outside of the realms of rational logic. Through giving thanks and receiving the Creator’s will for us with absolute love, we can evoke miracles and wonders way beyond by the limitations of nature.


Rebbe Nachman of Breslev says, “Nature is bound by limitations, but prayer changes nature” (Likutei Moharan I:7). Rebbe Nachman's mention of prayer is synonymous to gratitude.


I always say, “If you believe, you pray.” Gratitude constitutes complete emuna. A person should live with an awareness of gratitude, because if you don’t say “thank You,” you are lacking an essential element of emuna – “This is what the Creator wants.” The Creator is doing what He does to bring you closer to Him.


My student told this story in the middle of a class I was giving on Shabbat. At the time, it was really hard to believe it. But, his friends that were with him that day at the beach verified the story, declaring – right in the middle of my class - “We were with him and we saw it with our own eyes.”


That initial feeling of remorse that he had when he first discovered that his tooth was missing showed a lack of emuna. He didn't yet believe that whatever was happening to him was from Hashem and for his ultimate good. He thought that he didn't deserve to lose an expensive tooth and therefore he was upset because of it. But, after he strengthened himself and nullified his will to the Creator’s, he connected to true emuna. He no longer cared whether he found his tooth or not – the essence of his salvation lay in the fact that he was saved from living a life of heresy and falsehood, which are the source of all suffering. By way of gratitude, one internalizes the truth that everything Hashem does is for the very best; miracles that come from gratitude reinforce this point. Even without the miracle that my student witnessed, he should have rejoiced in the strengthening of emuna that enabled him to accept a painful situation with joy, thus saving him from a life of denial, trouble and sorrow.


Why do we say, "Say thank You and see miracles"? Why is it that when a man says “thank You” to the Creator he sees miraculous salvations?


There are many reasons given in the course of this book, but the essential reasoning is that there are no tribulations without prior transgressions. Then, any difficulty that a person experiences in life is an indication that he still lacks complete emuna. Life's challenges are designed to prod us into seeking more emuna, for learning and attaining emuna is our very purpose on earth.


Therefore, when a person thanks Hashem for his or her problem for half an hour every day, they will soon realize that their difficulty is all for the best, earning them stronger emuna. When a person attains the level of emuna where he believes that everything is good, then his difficulty in life becomes superfluous and miraculously turns around for the better.


Any feeling of lack comes from a deficiency in spiritual awareness, and a deficiency in spiritual awareness is a deficiency in emuna. Once a person attains spiritual awareness, he no longer feels that anything is lacking. With complete emuna, one lacks nothing.

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