17 Nissan 5779 / Monday, April 22, 2019 | Torah Reading: Acharei Mot
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Leah’s Song    

Leah’s Song

The Jewish people – Yehudim – are named after Leah’s fourth child Yehuda, which in Hebrew is “to give thanks.” Expressing gratitude to Hashem is therefore our national endeavor.


Translated by Rabbi Lazer Brody

Rebbe Shimeon Bar Yochai says something in the Zohar that seems strange: he says that no one ever thanked Hashem until our matriarch Leah thanked Hashem. How can that be true?
The Midrash tells us that Adam was the original author of Psalm 92, “A Song of Thanks to Hashem”, and King David received it as a tradition from Adam. So what does Rebbe Shimeon Bar Yochai mean that Leah was the first person to thank Hashem?
Leah knew that our forefather Jacob really wanted to marry her younger sister Rachel. Leah’s father Lavan tricked him into marrying Leah first. Even though Jacob had perfect emuna, and he accepted everything Hashem did with love, he still had a tiny preference in his heart for Rachel. This made Leah feel hated and unloved. But, look how Leah’s tribulations were all for the best: all our matriarchs had fertility difficulties. Between Sarah, Rebecca, Rachel and Leah, Leah was the only one who became pregnant right away. Even so, she expresses her anguish by the names she gives to her sons:
Son #1: “Reuven” – this in Hebrew means, “Look, I gave you a son!” This is Leah pleading to Jacob, “Please pay attention to me too – I am the mother of your child!”
Son #2: “Shimeon” – this in Hebrew means, “Hashem has heard my anguish.” Again, she hopes that Jacob will now love her as much as he loves her sister Rachel.
Son #3: “Levi” - this in Hebrew means, “Now, my man will accompany me.” Leah expresses her sorrow that she hasn’t been loved equally on her own accord, but now that she has given Jacob three sons, he will surely hold her in esteem.
Son #4: “Yehuda” - this in Hebrew means, “I shall give thanks!” Here, Leah undergoes a complete change of mindset. She realizes that Jacob has four wives – she, her sister Rachel, and their two concubines Zilpa and Bilha. In simple mathematic justice, each one of Jacob’s wives should give birth to 3 of the 12 sons. Now that Leah has received her fourth son, she comes to a double realization: first, Hashem has given her more than her own share; and second, all her suffering has actually been for her very best!
We must remember, our matriarchs not only had ruach hakodesh, a complete holy spirit of prophesy, but they all spoke to Hashem constantly in personal prayer. Leah now understands that her tribulations have elevated her to a higher spiritual level and a higher level of Divine abundance. Remember, the high priest is a descendant of Leah, as well as the King of Israel and Moshiach. What more could she hope for? Who wouldn’t be willing to suffer to have offspring like Moses and King David? Leah therefore bursts forth in songs of praise, and thanks Hashem for all her difficulties, setbacks and humiliation in life. This is what Rebbe Shimeon Bar Yochai means when he says that Leah was the first person to thank Hashem – she was the very first person to thank Hashem for her difficulties in life as she expressed in the name she gave to her fourth child.
Most fittingly, we the Jewish people – in Hebrew, Yehudim – are named after Leah’s fourth child Yehuda. We are therefore a nation that thanks Hashem – this is our national endeavor and purpose on earth, to thank Hashem all day long. Gratitude is the truest expression of emuna, that a person really believes that everything Hashem does is for the very best. When someone does something good for you, you thank him profusely. Since everything Hashem does is for our ultimate good, we should be thanking Him all day long. There is no such thing as Judaism without gratitude and songs of praise.
Let’s ask ourselves another question: Why is it that Rebbe Shimeon Bar Yochai has hundreds of thousands of people come to his gravesite every year, more so than other great tzaddikim that are buried in the Land of Israel? Rebbe Shimeon went through excruciating trials and tribulations in his life time. The Romans sentenced him to death and he spent years as a fugitive. For thirteen years, he hid in a cave and ate nothing but carobs and water. His skin was dry and cracked and his body was full of open wounds. He experienced pain that was no less than torture. Yet, he served Hashem happily and accepted his tribulations with love.
Any difficulty we experience in life is a test of emuna. With this in mind, let’s focus on a few points that will help us strengthen emuna:
First, let’s thank Hashem right now. Think about your own life. Remember your difficulties in the past. In retrospect, try and see how each one of these trying situations turned out for the best. One woman (who we’ll call Jane) wrote me that she was devastated when her boyfriend broke up with her. She had dreamed of marrying him. He ended up marrying someone else (who we’ll call Susan), and then died of cancer three years after the wedding, leaving Susan a young widow in her early twenties with a two-year old baby. Only then, did Jane realize what a tremendous favor Hashem did for her by not letting her marry this person.
So, if in retrospect, we know that all our life’s difficulties are for the best, let’s thank Hashem for our difficulties right now rather than waiting a few years to realize how they were all for the best. By believing that everything is for the very best, we build our emuna, and that invokes Divine compassion to mitigate the difficulties we’re experiencing right now! So, let’s give thanks today, and not wait until tomorrow.
Second, let’s depend on emuna more than we depend on logic and intellect. Imagine a situation that any logical mind would call a disaster, such as a terminal disease or a bankruptcy. The situation may be so bleak that even the experts give up hope. Fine – this is all logic and intellect speaking. But, if we set logic and intellect aside, what does emuna say? This is all for the best! Once again, if it’s all for the best, we should thank Hashem profusely. You can’t imagine what happens in the spiritual realm when a person with a terminal illness sings songs of praise and gratitude to Hashem. “Hashem, thank You so much for this illness, and thank You so much that not even the doctors give me a chance of finishing this year! Now, I’m completely dependent on you. I entrust my entire life in Your hands. I look to no one else but You! Hashem, thank You for bringing me so close to You. Without my tribulations, I would have never prayed a single sincere prayer to You; now, I talk to You for hours…”
So, even in the worst-case scenario, we should thank Hashem profusely. Since it’s not natural that a person in such a predicament should thank Hashem, Hashem often responds with non-natural solutions to whatever problem the person is suffering from.
Rebbe Nachman tells us first of all to assess a situation with emuna, and not to give logic and intelligence first preference.
Third, don’t think that you can change overnight. Rebbe Akiva spent 22 years as the understudy of Nachum Ish Gamzu to learn and internalize the fact that everything Hashem does is for the ultimate best. Listen to this CD over and over, and pick up our CD “Stop Crying.” One must exercise constantly to build a strong body; building a strong soul also requires frequent “workouts” – listen to our emuna CDs, read and review The Garden of Emuna, The Garden of Yearning, and our latest emuna book In Forest Fields, see our weekly Emuna lectures in English on www.breslev.co.il . These together will make a dramatic change in your life.
Fourth, remember that Emuna comes from Hashem. Therefore, despite our efforts, we can’t attain emuna unless we pray to Hashem and ask Him for it all the time.
If you haven’t seen a miracle in your own life today, it’s a sign that you haven’t yet sincerely thanked Hashem for your blessings in life. Anyone who thanks Hashem for his difficulties in life will see miracles, this very day, amen!

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