April 12, 2024
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April 12, 2024
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The Potent, Protective Power of Thanks

Regarding the Korban Toda, our parsha states: “If he shall offer … a thanksgiving-offering, he shall offer with the feast thanksgiving-offering unleavened loaves mixed with oil ….” Rav Tzvi Yechiel Michel Segal notes that the pasuk repeats the mention of “thanksgiving-offering,” which—at first glance—appears to be redundant.What’s the reason?

In Tehillim (76:11) it states: “For man’s anger will thank You; You will prevent the remnant of anger.” The Chida explains this pasuk based on a teaching of our Rabbis who say that when a person gives thanks to Hashem for a miracle that occurred to him, he is saved from other bad happenings. Based on this, the Chida seems to explain the pasuk as follows: “For man’s anger will thank you” can be understood to mean that when there is [God’s] anger upon man (i.e., when God brings him to difficult situations), and then man thanks Hashem upon being saved and liberated, then, “You will prevent the remnant of anger,” meaning, if there remains more [unfortunate] heavenly decrees (the “remnant of anger”) that he was supposed to incur, by thanking Hashem for His kindness, Hashem will prevent those additional decrees—the “remnant of anger”—from occurring.

Based on this, Rav Segal seems to explain the apparent repetition of “thanksgiving-offering” in our pasuk as follows: “If he shall offer it for a thanksgiving-offering”—meaning, if a person gives thanks to Hashem upon experiencing a miracle that occurred to him, he will then merit that “he shall offer with the feast thanksgiving-offering”—meaning, he will merit to offer another thanksgiving-offering—he will essentially merit to give more thanks to Hashem. By thanking Hashem for His kindnesses towards him, this nullifies bad decrees that he was originally supposed to incur, and by nullifying these decrees, he merits experiencing another miracle of being saved again from yet another perilous situation, upon which he will then merit to thank Hashem again for His kindness towards him, which again, in turn, will nullify more bad decrees, which, in turn will cause him to be rescued from harm again, etc. And the endless cycle of thanks and liberation from difficulty continues.

Rav Segal uses this idea to explain that which it states in Tehillim (30:12-13): “You [Hashem] have transformed my lament into dancing for me… so that sing to You [might] my soul and not be silenced; Hashem, my God, forever will I thank you.” Explains Rav Segal, because I danced upon my lament being transformed, and I did not keep quiet, but rather I sang to You, and I thanked You, therefore, “forever will I thank you” (because of the aforementioned endless cycle) (Tzemach HaTzvi, Tzav).

We can learn from here the power of thanking Hashem upon being saved and liberated from difficult situations in life, for doing so may remove and nullify other potential hardships that may have been previously decreed upon us.

Nevertheless, while it seems from here that one may still be placed into difficult situations and only then may be liberated due to the merit of previously thanking Hashem after being saved, however, it’s possible that the power of thanks may be even more potent: that by simply contemplating, appreciating and thanking Hashem for His constant, everyday and every moment kindnesses and blessings He bestows upon us—(beyond just the thanks that one may give after achieving a salvation from a difficulty)—one might so-to-speak “beat the system,” i.e., the aforementioned cycle of rescue and thanks. Meaning, by thanking Hashem for all the (“regular,” daily) good He constantly gives us, one might, as a result, be spared of even encountering difficult situations to begin with, the Korban Todah was brought—as Rashi explains—“over a miracle that was done for him, for example, seafarers, and those who travel deserts, and those who were confined in prison [and were released], and a sick person who was healed. The Gemara quotes Rav Yehudah in the name of Rav who said that four [types of people] must give thanks: seafarers, those who go through wildernesses, one who was ill and recovered and one who was incarcerated in prison and came out.

The Gemara then provides a basis for this from Tehillim (107): Regarding the seafarers, it states: “Those who have gone down to the sea in ships … They have seen the deeds of Hashem … He [Hashem] raised the stormy wind … They rise heavenward, they descend to the depths … They reel, they stagger like a drunkard … Then they cried out to Hashem in their distress, and He would take them out from their straits … He would halt the storm to restore calmness … And they [the seafarers] rejoiced because they [the waves] were quiet … Let them give thanks to Hashem for His kindness ….”

Regarding those who go through wildernesses, it states: “They wandered in the wilderness, in the desolation of the path; they found no inhabited city … Then they cried out to Hashem … He led them upon a straight path … Let them give thanks to Hashem for His kindness.”

Regarding one who became ill and recovered, it states: “Fools, because of their sinful path and because of their iniquities, were afflicted. Their souls abhorred all food … Then they cried out to Hashem in their distress … He would dispatch His word and cure them … Let them give thanks to Hashem for his kindness.”

Regarding one who was incarcerated and came out of captivity, it states: “Those who sat in darkness and the shadow of death … because they rebelled against the word of God … So He humbled their hearts with hard labor … Then they cried out to Hashem in their distress … He would take them out of darkness and the shadow of death … Let them give thanks to Hashem for His kindness.”

Interestingly, the chapter concludes by stating, “Whoever is wise let him note (literally: “guard”) these things, and they will comprehend the kindnesses of Hashem.” Rav Mordechai Druk asks: This chapter describes at length the four types of people who give thanks to Hashem. If so, what is the connection between that issue and these concluding words in this chapter?

Rav Druk explains, based on an idea from the Chafetz Chaim, who said the following insight: It is natural nature that if, for example, someone is walking along a certain road and incurs a severe fall, but yet only receives a bad bruise and nothing more, no fractures or broken bones, this person enthusiastically thanks Hashem for preventing a more serious injury from occurring. However, the very next day, when this person walks along that very same road, and this time he does not fall and neither receives a bruise nor a broken bone, will he also then thank Hashem? Will he thank Hashem for not falling? For not incurring any injury?

This can explain the connection. Hashem wants to hear our thanks to Him, and He wants to hear it even when unfortunate happenings do not occur to us. However, if that doesn’t happen, He may bring us difficult situations in order to ultimately hear our thanks. Thus, the chapter concludes with stating, “Whoever is wise let him ‘guard’ these things, and they will comprehend the kindnesses of Hashem,” teaching us that a person should be wise and thus contemplate Hashem’s kindnesses towards him and thank Hashem—even before anything undesirable occurs to him. For by doing so, he “guards” himself—i.e, he protects himself—from having perilous and unfortunate happenings occur to him. For since Hashem has already received his thanks, He no longer needs to bring him to difficult situations in order to ultimately hear his thanks. (Drash Mordechai, Tzav).

We could perhaps learn from here the impact of contemplating the good we have, appreciating all the blessings and kindnesses that Hashem constantly bestows upon us, and thanking Him for all of it (before any of our blessings have been subject to being compromised). By doing so, we not only can gain a greater appreciation for what we have, which can bring us more joy in life, but also, we may merit being protected and spared from undergoing difficult circumstances in life which we otherwise may have had to encounter.

Binyamin is a graduate of Yeshivas Rabbeinu Yitzchak Elchanan, and Wurzweiler School of Social Work

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