A number of years ago before we moved into our current home, we were looking at homes that were for sale. Hanging in the bedroom of one the homes was a poem entitled “Tell Her So.” It read:
Amid the cares of married life,
In spite of toil and business strife,
If you value your sweet wife, tell her so!
Don’t act as if she’s passed her prime,
As though to please her were a crime,
If e’er you loved her, now’s the time;
Tell her so!
You are hers and hers alone:
Well you know she’s all your own;
Don’t wait to carve it on the stone
Tell her so!
Never let her heart grow cold;
Richer beauties will unfold,
She is worth her weight in gold;
Tell her so!
After seeing it I concluded that either the man of the house had hung it up as a reminder to himself, in which case he probably had a wonderful marriage, or the woman of the house had hung it up because their marriage needed some serious help!
I once heard a lecturing rabbi suggest–somewhat surprisingly–that he felt men should not buy their wives flowers every Shabbos. He reasoned that doing so makes the flowers become a trite habit that loses its meaning. A flower with a card that reads “Thanks for everything” each week, will no longer be appreciated as a special gesture, but rather as something expected. He felt that flowers should be saved for special occasions–or emergency situations (at a local florist, one of the little cards at the counter has a picture of a man coming out of a dog house…).
His point is unquestionably debatable. However, it is definitely true that when something becomes ritualized it loses much of its inherent meaning and depth. On the other hand, a friend of mine related that he buys flowers for his wife almost every Erev Shabbos, but he includes a card in which he thanks her for something specific each week.
I once read about a great man who davened Shemoneh Esrei for an extended period of time three times each day. When he was asked why it takes him so long, he replied that when he recites Modim (the thanksgiving prayer) he thinks about the long list of things for which he is grateful to God. He hardly has enough time to say just a few of them.
Rav Avigdor Miller zt’l suggests that every person think about one unique thing for which s/he is thankful for every time Modim is recited.
Our relationship with God is metaphorically compared to a marriage. Although God does not need our thanks, the more we recognize and express our gratitude to Him the more thankful we will be generally, and the more people will want to be around us.
By Rabbi Dani Staum