Be Grateful – Your Life May Depend On It

Israel

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The Torah relates (Bereishis 2:16-22) that Hashem created Adam HaRishon and placed him in Gan Eden, commanding him not to eat from the Eitz HaDaas. Hashem then brought all living creatures – male and female – before him and Adam assigned names to all of them. He noted, though, that he did not have a mate for himself. So Hashem put him to sleep and gifted him Chava, a helpmate.

The snake became jealous of Adam, so it enticed Chava to eat from the Eitz HaDaas, and Chava, in turn, convinced her husband to do the same. When Hashem asked Adam, “Have you eaten of the tree from which I commanded you not to eat?” Adam responded, “The wife You gave me – she gave me of the tree and I ate.”

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Our Sages (Avodah Zarah 5b) state that Adam’s response demonstrated ingratitude. Chava was created to assist him, and Adam decided to blame her for his sin.

Rabbi Nissim Yagen observes that Hashem is extremely demanding concerning the middah of gratitude (hakaras hatov).

When Yaakov Avinu came down to Mitzrayim, Yosef brought him before Pharaoh, who asked Yaakov how old he was. Yaakov replied that he was 130 years old, adding, “Few and bad have been the days of the years of my life…” (Bereishis 47:8-9). The Medrash remarks that upon hearing this reply, Hashem said, “I saved you from Esav and from Lavan and I returned both Dinah and Yosef to you, and you complain about your life? I swear that the number of your words will be lacking from your years.”

And so they were. The number of words from the beginning of Pharaoh’s question until the end of Yaakov’s answer is 33, and 33 years were deducted from Yaakov’s life. Yitzchak passed away at 180, and Yaakov passed away at 147.

Some commentators are perplexed why Yaakov Avinu was held responsible, not only for his answer, but for Pharaoh’s question as well. The Daas Zekeinim explains that he looked old, prompting Pharaoh to inquire about his age. Yaakov’s answer implied that he was, in fact, not old but had a difficult life, which made him look old.

We see from the Talmud (Chagigah 4b) that ingratitude can be cause for harsh punishment. It relates that the Angel of Death once instructed his messenger to bring him Miriam the hairdresser, but the agent brought him Miriam the children’s nurse. The Angel of Death said, “I told you to bring Miriam the hairdresser.” The agent replied, “If so, I will take her back.”

The Angel of Death then said to him, “Since you brought her, let her remain.” The Angel of Death then asked, “How were you able to get her if it was not her time?” The messenger replied, “She was holding a shovel in her hand, sweeping the oven, and carelessly dropped it on her foot. She was scalded and her luck was impaired, which gave me the opportunity to bring her.” The woman’s disregard of the gift of life gave license for her soul to be taken away before its time.

The Chovos HaLevavos speaks extensively about the importance of appreciating Hashem’s world, and HaRav Avigdor Miller, throughout his life, shared pragmatic lessons to his audiences on how to regularly exercise the middah of hakaras hatov. It is our obligation to thank Hashem daily, every moment, for our healthy body; our ability to hear, taste, and see; our clothing; our food; our homes; and for all the kindnesses Hashem constantly bestows upon every human being.

A couple was having difficulty with a shidduch for their daughter. Either the suggestions were not appropriate or – when they were good – did not ultimately work out. Finally, after many years of disappointment, everything seemed to be falling in place, and an engagement was imminent.

As the family of the soon-to-be kallah prepared for the special evening, the shadchan suddenly phoned and said the chassan’s family was calling off the shidduch. The father of the girl was deeply troubled by the turn of events and stayed up late into the night contemplating his lapses in serving Hashem. After many hours, he became painfully aware that he had been inordinately deficient in expressing gratitude and appreciation for the blessings Hashem had granted his family throughout the years.

The family immediately made a detailed list of the blessings in their lives for which they had not been properly grateful. They wept as they realized the debt of gratitude they owed their Father in Heaven.

Only a few hours later the next morning, the shadchan called once again conveying a request from the chassan’s family for mechilah. They deeply regretted their earlier decision and wanted to proceed full steam ahead with the shidduch. The couple were married a few months later.

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