Geshmack Dvar Torah

has been moved to new address

Sorry for inconvenience...

Geshmack Dvar Torah of the Week: Being Thankful - for What?

Monday, 7 December 2009

Being Thankful - for What?

I was fortunate to hear this from R' Yaakov Hillel recently, and it is an absolute gem. He asked the Beis Yosef's question, and shared a very sweet idea about gratitude. The question is why we celebrate 8 days of Chanuka and not 7, seeing as there was enough oil for a day, meaning the extra benefit form the miracle was 7 days worth.

Chacham Hillel pointed us to a Rashi (29:35) that is based on a Midrash: הפעם אודה: שנטלתי יותר מחלקי, מעתה יש לי להודות - This time, I will thank: since I have taken more than my share. Consequently, I must offer up thanks. — [from Gen. Rabbah 71:4].
Although simple understanding of this would indicate that her rationale was that each wife would be mother to 3 of the tribes, and now that she had exceeded her fair share, she was grateful for the extra good G-d had done to her, but Chacham Hillel tells us this is not so.

The beauty (and difficulty!) of the Hebrew language is that it is hard to accurately translate as we don't know what the writer's intent was. But we can interpret Rashi differently - I've exceeded my portion (3), now I realise I ought to have been thankful before, ie she realised that there are no cheshboinos (plans), we can't second guess G-d. She realised she was wrong to have assumed that 3 is a "fair share", that even what is natural and makes sense is a miracle. This is a hard hitting idea. Each breath we take - who says that all the mechanisms that enable you to breathe - enable you to breathe? Who says up is up? By what mechanism is water wet? What binds all the atoms that you are made of? These are all absurd examples, but that is exactly the point - we are so familiar with things we consider "normal" and "natural", that we erase the incredibility we should really see this, we see them as "natural".

There is an amazing Gemara (Taanis 25a) about the righteousness and power of R' Chanina ben Dosa, that illustrates this point. He came home one Shabbos and saw his daughter weeping, and he asked why. She informed him that she had lit a lamp for Shabbos, that she had thought was filled with oil, but was in fact filled with vinegar, and she was weeping that they would have no light for Shabbos when the wick reached the vinegar, at which point it would extinguish. The reply: "מי שאמר לשמן וידלוק הוא יאמר לחומץ וידלוק" תנא היה דולק והולך כל היום כולו עד שהביאו ממנו אור להבדלה - "He who said that oil should burn will also say to vinegar to burn." And the lamp burned the entire (night and following) day until they lit a Havdala candle with it. This story speaks volumes about how skewed our perceptions are: nature is not natural.

R' Hillel explains that we celebrate the "extra" Chanuka to teach us something that seems so obviously in our faces that we don't see it - that we must be thankful for every single thing we have and do.

The way of a Jew is "modeh ani" - it's a chiddush, some people don't wake up. Thank you Hashem. "Zokef kfufim", "matir assurim", some people can't walk; paralysis, suddenly, after a lifetime of mobility. Thank you Hashem. When we realise that not only are the "miracles" miracles, but everything in between - "nifle'osecha v'tovosecha sheb'chol es, erev v'voker, v'tzohoroyim" - then we're really on our way to true hodo'oh of HaShem, and a better understanding of Hashem as the constant Boreh Olam.

[And then, just to add some R' Noach Weinberg zt"l (who he didn't mention), this is what really leads you to happiness, in line with Chazal's sameyach b'chelko. If you really understand your chelek, if you really grasp all that you have, if you take nought for granted and truly value the billion good things in your life, if you just stop for one minute a day and actually *try* to count your countless blessings...that's the "Happiness Game".]

Thanks Doniel for clarifying!

Also, Brisk Yeshivish has a post I enjoyed greatly on Chanuka.

Labels: , , , , ,