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Leah and the Lesson of Gratitude
By Rebbetzin Lori Palatnik - EYAHT alumna

 

"From the day that God created the world, there was no one who thanked God until Leah came and thanked Him." (The Talmud)

Leah, married to Jacob, was one of the mothers of the Jewish people. In the passage above the Talmud is referring to the birth of Leah´s fourth son, Judah. The name Judah shares the same root in Hebrew as the word todah, meaning "thank you." But what does the Talmud mean when it says that Leah was the first person to ever really thank God?

Abraham never thanked God? Noah never thanked God? Sarah never thanked God? Of course, they did. In fact, many people had thanked God in the Torah long before Leah. Therefore, the Talmud must be telling us that there was something special about Leah´s thankfulness. Her gratitude must have been somehow truer and deeper than that of anyone who had come before her.

By understanding what made Leah´s gratitude special, we will learn what true gratefulness is all about.

SEEING EVERYTHING AS A GIFT

Leah was a prophetess who knew that the Jewish nation was destined to descend from the 12 sons of Jacob, her husband. Each tribe would be a foundation stone that would shape our history. Jacob´s sons would come from four women: Leah, Rachel, Bilha, and Zilpah. Leah expected that each woman would have 3 sons.

Judah was Leah´s fourth son. She recognized that he was one more than her share. Her thankfulness for Judah was deeper and more heartfelt because he was unexpected. He was a gift.

This is how we are supposed to view everything in life. Every ray of sunshine, every child, every breath -- they are all gifts from God.

The mistake of thinking any thing is owed to us blocks us from gratitude.

People sometimes don´t appreciate sight until they meet someone who is blind. We shouldn´t wait until we are sick to appreciate our health. We should count our blessings every day and take pleasure in the miraculous gifts bestowed upon us.

BEGINNING THE DAY WITH GRATITUDE

Jewish consciousness says that every morning we should rise with the prayer, Modeh Ani: "I am grateful to God for bringing life to me each and every day."

At our time of sorrow, when we have lost a loved one, we are forced to stand and face our own mortality. We do not live forever, and we do not know from one day to the next when our time will come. All we can do is say, Modeh Ani: "I am grateful to God, for giving me another day, and another opportunity to use it wisely."

Our religion is called "Judaism" from Judah. The essence of being a Jew is to be thankful. Realize, as Leah did, that every moment of life is a gift. Open the gift and take pleasure in its Source.

 

Rebbetzin Lori Palatnik is an author and Jewish educator who has appeared on television and radio, and is well known for her wit, wisdom, and entertaining style.  She is a much sought-after international lecturer, and is the author of "Friday Night and Beyond: The Shabbat Experience Step-By-Step", "Remember My Soul - What To Do In Memory of a Loved One", and co-author of "Gossip: 10 Pathways to Eliminate It From Your Life and Transform Your Soul". She regularly appears on radio and television, illuminating classical Jewish wisdom for the contemporary mind and soul.

Reprinted with permission from Aish.com, a leading Judaism website.