The First Thanksgiving – Parshat Vayeitzei
We have spoken in past blogs of the magic words of 'please', 'sorry' and 'thank you'. We can agree on the potential importance of these words in creating a more pleasant, humane society. All languages that I checked in the online translator have a word for thank you. Even Esperanto has a word for thank you.
That’s why it's so fascinating that Leah is considered the first one to give thanks to God. Leah, upon giving birth to Yehudah, as recounted in this week's parsha, Parshat Vayeitzei, is the first one recorded to have said thank you out loud.1 The Gemara even points out her action as exceptional – she was the first to openly thank God.2 The trend continues as her great-great(x7)-grandson, King David mentions thanksgiving in Tehillim numerous times. But Leah is the 24th generation from Adam and no one until that point even said thank you? To be fair, not every conversation people had is written in the Torah. We look for hints in the Torah which is at times can be cryptic. We see that Noach and Avraham brought offerings to God and may even say that they did so out of a sense of thanksgiving and praise. But still, Leah is the one who is quoted and credited as being the first.
This concept of gratitude is not just a good idea. Dr. Nerine Gregersen writes about gratitude and says that it "connects us to something beyond ourselves. We can feel connected to other people, the world around us, or to a greater consciousness. Without exception, however, this connection awakens our human ability for self-transcendence. Our focus broadens…As we consciously engage in being grateful we return to an awareness of abundance. Perhaps we even acknowledge that this abundance surrounds us, flows to us, and is not created by us. We are opened to the realm of possibility when we review the evidence of all the wonderful things that have already come to pass for us. Abundance and possibility lie in the dimension beyond the physical, in what some may call the spiritual plane. The more we practice gratitude, the more concrete examples we have that we are supported in synchronous, spiritual ways that often defy reason."3
So gratitude is not just an appreciation of something that has happened. It opens us up to something even greater for ourselves. It allows for true appreciation of others. It helps us to feel that we are not alone. And it helps us be more open and even available to helping others.
Allowing ourselves to feel gratitude enriches our lives. Keeping a 'gratitude journal', as I have suggested to many clients, is an excellent tool to help us become more aware of those things in life for which we can be grateful.
Engaging in thanksgiving, helps us change our attitude towards life as we live it. We are no longer victims of fate. We are recipients of kindness. And we can choose to pass it on too.
Have A Great Shabbat!