Monday, October 29, 2007

Counting Our Blessings - Table Talk - Chaye Sarah 5768

Have you said “thank you” today? While we always considered expressing our appreciation polite, science teaches us that saying “thanks” can also be good for you. In fact, in her new book “Thank You Power”, journalist and author Deborah Norville demonstrates how by “beginning with those two small words, thank you… you can be happier and more resilient, have better relationships, improved health, and less stress.” (Full disclosure: I haven’t read the book. That’s in the press release.) But Norville is right on the money, because long before science discovered “thank you,” we learned about it from our parshah.

The parshah relates the long arduous journey of Avraham’s servant Eliezer in his search for a wife for Yitzchak. After finally finding Rivkah and determining that she’s the shidduch for Yitzchak, Eliezer asks for permission to bring the girl back with him to Cana’an. When Lavan and Betuel answer in the affirmative, the Torah tells us, “when the servant of Avraham heard their words, he bowed down to the ground to God.” Why does he bow down? Rashi explains that, מכאן שמודים על בשורה טובה – “from this we learn that we must give thanks for good news.” When I first saw Rashi’s comment, initially the lesson seemed obvious. But then I realized: when we think about our own lives, how many of us truly count the tremendous blessings that we enjoy in our lives? How often do we allow the small frustrations in life to cloud the greater good that give us pleasure?

Rabbi Berel Wein, in a little book called “Buy Green Bananas” writes: “Life, family, work, friends, society, are all sources of immense blessings. They are also invariably also sources of friction, disappointment and frustration. Our view of life should not be an image of a never-ending complaint department. Rather, it should be a place of hope and steadfastness. Such an attitude is achieved by counting our blessings consistently and sincerely.”

But we can take it one step further. Rabbi Nachman of Breslov writes: “When someone asks you how you’re doing, do not complain and grumble about your troubles. If you answer ‘Things are bad for me,’ then the Creator says, ‘That’s bad in your eyes? I’ll show you what’s truly bad.’ But when someone asks you how you’re doing, and despite difficulties and tribulations you say ‘Good,’ then the Creator says, ‘That’s good in your eyes? I’ll show you what’s truly good.’”