Attitude of Gratitude
Today’s society does not promote the idea of gratitude or appreciation. Society promotes selfishness, separation, pursuing one’s own agenda and going after whatever a person feels they want. But this path of life does not lead to happiness: today so many people suffer from depression, lack a sense of purpose and lack gratitude. People are lonely and feel isolated, even with all the social media and cell phones. And that spills over into all aspects of life. Children do not learn to appreciate parents or elders. Couples often lack respect and appreciation of one another. People in general do not know how to appreciate what they have and are dissatisfied in life. Many people have difficulty feeling grateful for what they have and they cannot feel happy with their lot. They complain constantly. This is what the yetzer hara wants because the yetzer hara tries very hard to prevent Moshiach from coming.
Rabbi Nachman of Breslov taught: If everyone would listen and walk in the path of believing in Hashem always, and believe that everything is for the good and to give praise and gratitude to Him always, whether in favorable or unfavorable situations, all troubles would certainly be nullified , esxile would end and the Geula, the full redemption of the Jewish people, would be here already.
By constantly thanking Hashem we bring the Geula with rachamim, with mercy.
Rabbi yehoshua ben Levi says in Gemorah: “he who accepts tribulations with joy brings salvation to the world.” When we thank Hashem wholeheartedly and with joy about whatever does NOT go our way in life, we can bring salvation to the entire world!
So what should we do? How can we implement this idea? We should set aside time every day to strengthen our attitude of gratitude. To meditate on all the good Hashem bestows upon us. And to cultivate the ability to thank Hashem even when things do not look good or we are unable to see good in them.
Very often we take the good things we have for granted. We forget to thank Hashem for what we have. And we concentrate instead on the things we do not have and the perceived deficiencies in our lives. We focus more on the negatives than the positives.
It is very important to make a habit of sitting down each day to actually thank Hashem for all the good we have, and to verbalize or at least go through in our minds, all the blessings Hashem bestows upon us.
Of course it is much harder to thank Hashem for the hardships or perceived negative aspects of our lives. But even that is important to practice: to actually thank Hashem for the negative or difficulties we go through as well. They all come from Hashem and nothing evil comes from Above. It is all good. Sometimes the good is concealed so we cannot as yet recognize it as something good.
Even when we go through chasve shalom traumas in life, or abuse, or addictions etc, we need to know that these things are part of our correction of our souls. The highest souls sometimes have to go to the lowest depths in order to elevate those things in the world that others could not. And so a person who suffers a trauma etc. should not feel they are worthless, or that Hashem does not love them, chasve shalom…on the contrary! They were chosen to go through this because Hashem sees they have the strength to withstand the test and to elevate the situation and to fix something in the world that someone else could not do. Nothing happens without a purpose. Nobody says it is easy to go through difficulties or traumas and look at them in a positive light. But every experience can be turned into a positive situation and good can come out of it, if we choose to look at it in the right way.
And part of that is learning to be grateful even for the suffering we go through, as difficult as that is. And it is difficult! Very difficult sometimes.
A rabbi from bnei brak told Rabbi Arush that there was a father and mother who came to him with their only son who had a terminal illness. The doctors said nothing could be done for that illness. But this rabbi told the parents to thank Hashem for one hour reach day for making their son ill. And he told the son to do the same. They listened and within a short time the illness totally disappeared and the boy recovered. A medical miracle.
What is the rationale behind such a thing? It is the understanding that there is no evil that descends from Above, as the Alter Rebbe says in Tanya. There is no “bad” in this world. Everything that comes from Hashem is good. Absolute good. One has to nullify one’s will to Hashem and strengthen one’s emuna, faith, thank Hashem for everything, realizing that whatever is happening is for our good and is the way to bring perfection to one’s soul and as a tikun, a rectification, for whatever we may have done wrong in a past life. And therefore we need to be thankful even for those difficult times .
Not always does one see immediate salvation but as one person put it:
“Nothing in our life has changed. We still have the same problem we had before we started strengthening our emuna. But there is one big difference: before anything would destroy our good mood and make us angry or depressed. Now, with emuna, we are always happy and we thank Hashem all day long…”
Serving Hashem with joy is only possible if you learn to be grateful and thankful for everything you have.
Complete emuna means saying thank you for one’s lot in life and for everything that happens to you. You learn to accept everything with love because that it is all the product of Hashem’s Divine Providence, which is all intended for the best for each person.
As such , a person subjugates his desires to Hashem’s desires. He nullifies his will in front of Hashem’s will, as it says in Pirkei Avot: “nullify your will before His will, and He will nullify His will to yours”. But first you need to nullify YOUR will. To become truly bitul.
The evil inclination, the yetzer hara, knows this is the path to true blessing so it comes to confuse a person, make a person depressed, make it hard to feel thankful. That is the test each person faces every day: to thank Hashem and be grateful to Him, knowing it is all for one’s soul perfection and to attain greater closeness to Hashem. Not to fall into depression or despair.
A person might see that there is no natural solution to his problem and the yetzer hara hardens his heart, not allowing him to understand that thanks and gratitude are what he really needs to solve his problem and bring miracles and salvation without limitations.
Anyone who needs a salvation should be happy with his tribulations because that brings salvation to the entire world. It causes Hashem to treat him with enhanced kindness and lenience. It sweetens the gevurot and dinim (the harsh decrees , judgments etc. which are the source of suffering).
The Alter Rebbe in Tanya writes that if a person accepts suffering with love and happiness, the gevurot are sweetened within the chassadim (within the source and within the kindesses) and are therefore tempered and changed into open revealed good.
Of course one must thank Hashem for all goodness and abundance that He bestows upon a person. But the difficulty in gratitude is thanking Hashem for things that do not go the way we want, or that cause suffering, or for deficiencies in our lives, in health or parnassa or any matter we need help with or feel we are lacking.
If we truly believe there is no evil and everything Hashem does is for the best, then there are no deficiencies in reality, there are no problems and that is why we must say thank you to Hashem.
All life’s problems are designed to bring us to greater emuna and closer to Hashem.
Hashem has no desire to torment people or cause them to suffer. He wants to bring a person closer to Him, to truly believe in His goodness and that all is for the best. To truly TRUST HIM.
When you sincerely thank Hashem even for your problems, and you continue to serve Him with joy despite your challenges, then He no longer needs that problem or difficulty to bring you closer to Hashem and He can remove that test or that challenge and bring salvation.
So He discards the problem and you experience salvation.
Rabbi Nachman says when a person thanks Hashem, he invokes miracles.
Hashem is always good, but sometimes the good is concealed.
Real emuna is believing that the seeming “bad” is good. By revealing the concealed good a person merits miracles and salvation and the seeming “bad” actually becomes open revealed good. The Alter Rebbe writes that in Tanya: that by accepting anything that looks “negative” as being actually good, and accepting it with happiness, we then sweeten all the harshness and change everything to become actual good, open good.
Suppose a person is handicapped: either born missing a limb or he has a stroke and one limb is non functional or he is injured somehow and loses a limb, chasve shalom. Why would Hashem take away from him one limb? Because Hashem saw the only way this person could reach his perfection in this world is if he loses or lacks that particular limb. So in that respect his deficiency is really is perfection.
One has to thank Hashem even for lacking a limb because through that lack one reaches his soul;s completion.
The same is true for any problem or deficiency. Hashem sees that a person much have a certain deficiency in order to make him greater, to increase his potential, to increase his closeness to Hashem. So that deficiency becomes the best thing in the world for that person. Anything you lack is the result of Hashem’s Divine Providence and is absolutely good.
If however a person thinks his problems are disadvantages and he harbors sorrow, depression or questions against Hashem in his heart because of it, that means he lacks emuna on some level. His heart differs with Hashem and he thinks Hashem is being unfair to him, chasve shalom. That will not lead to an attitude of gratitude.
A person may not regain his limb, but by becoming happy and grateful in life he will live in tranquility and with simcha. He accepts Hashem’s will with joy . He says “Hashem, only you know what is best for me. Thank you for everything including this deficiency I have.”
He therefore subjugates his will to Hashem’s and in turn Hashem will subjugate the will of others to his.
With such heart felt gratitude he will surely see miracles and Divine assistance in everything.
And he will bring salvation and redemption to the entire world.
A person’s gratitude is often weakened when he does not see good results. But gratitude itself is salvation. Gratitude is truth. The closer a person gets to the truth, the more miracles and salvation he will experience in life.
And even if he does not receive the result he is praying for, he still understands everything is truly for the best. Hashem sees the entire picture that we do not see.
Many people want to see salvation according to what their own understanding is. There comes a point in life when we need to let go and allow Hashem to take over. We have to realize we are not in control, we don’t have to be in control, we do not have to solve everyone’s problems and we only have to do the best we can and be thankful to Hashem for all our blessings.
And the Lubavitcher Rebbe went even further to talk about trust, btachon. By strengthening our trust in Hashem and really believing , not only that things will be good but that they already are good right now, we are able to reveal even a higher level of good and we will merit to actually see the good. If we have such firm trust, Hashem will not disappoint us. We will see the situation become good in a way that we can appreciate the good. But developing such strong trust is an avoda itself: it takes work and effort.
We also need to cultivate the attribute of thinking good. As the third Lubavitcher Rebbe, the Tzemach Tzedek, said: ‘THINKG GOOD, IT WILL BE GOOD.” Just by thinking positively we have the ability to shape the outcome of things. By good thoughts we can actually change a decree and bring about a revelation of the concealed good .
A woman once was suffering in a terrible abusive marriage. She went crying to the rav. He told her to start thanking Hashem every day for her marriage and her husband. She did so with simple faith. But instead of achieving shalom bayit, her husband one day left her with the kids and divorced her. She had to support the children herself. Her relative was angry with the rav, upset that the woman was now alone with the children. But in due time she met a wonderful man who married her and is raising her children as his own. She merited such miracles because of her faith and thankfulness. She was constantly expressing gratitude to Hashem for every situation in her life.
We also need to remember that we should not compare ourselves to others: each person is here for a different reason, for a particular purpose, to correct something. No two souls are alike. So if you see your neighbor or friend or relative with a lot of health or wealth or children and you are lacking any of those, do not become jealous or angry at Hashem. Realize that your purpose is different and your challenges are tailored specifically for your soul’s mission. Accept it all with happiness and gratefulness.
Gratitude is the exact point where a person nullifies his will to Hashem and his intellect to Divine intellect and says thank you Hashem, there is no bad, only good. and If things get worse , thank Hashem more. Eventually things will change around and become better.
We need to say to Hashem “We understand that our problem/deficiency/lack is our special soul correction and we believe this is the only way for to perfect ourselves. Hashem, You do the best. We don’t care what you do as long as You instill in us the emuna that there is nothing bad in the world and we can say thank You wholeheartedly with joy.”
Subjugating oneself to Hashem is true emuna. You then invoke salvation. One’s prayers are answered in accordance with one’s emuna.
A person who says thank you passes the test of emunah. Secondly he is happy with his lot in life without bitterness and anger or doubts in Hashem.
Even if you don’t receive the kind of salvation you seek, you will live your life with tranquility, faith and you will bring many salvations to the world.
When there is shalom bayit between husband and wife, there is peace in all the world. We the Jewish people are Hashem’s “wife”. When there is peace between us and our “husband”, Hashem, we also bring peace to the world.
A couple in Israel both had fertility problems but did not tell each other before marriage. Hashem, in His wisdom and through Divine Providence, put them together and they got married. They both were fearful of never having children. Doctors said there was nothing to do to help them. A rav told them to be happy and thank Hashem for this problem. So they did that. They sincerely started thanking Hashem knowing this was for the best for their souls. And in the end they merited two children of their own!
If a person gets depressed, sad, angry at their problems in life, the yetzer hara keeps those problems going longer. If a person is able to become happy and accept problems with joy, Hashem no longer needs those problems to elevate the person and very often the problems disappear.
Rebbe Shmuel, the Rebbe Maharash of Lubavitch, said “lechatchila arriber”. From the first place go over a problem as if it is does not exist….and in many cases it wont. Do not pay attention to problems so seriously. Go above and beyond them with faith in Hashem.
Wasn’t it worth 12 years in Egyptian prison for Yosef to become Yosef hatzadik?
And wasn’t it worth 13 years in a cave to become Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai?
He would not have become the tzadik we know as Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai without those 13 years in the cave.
So each of us must be happy in our “cave”, in whatever situation we find ourselves. Be happy with your lot.
In the long run it is all worth it. You must endure many things to merit what awaits you as a reward.
When you endure it with emuna, you attain lofty heights.
During the time of tribulation one builds tools of emuna and trust.
When a person is in trouble, if he only sees the forces of nature he hits a wall of futility.
But if he wants to see miracles and salvation he must invoke Hashem’s will to bring down miracles by thanking Hashem for everything that he has, including the challenges presented to him.
He must rejoice in his portion and really have gratitude that Hashem is taking time to raise him to a higher level.
The problem with many people is that they have expectations: they want a particular thing or result NOW. And if it does not happen when or how they want it to, they become angry or frustrated .And a person has a tendency to blame others. Everyone looks for someone to blame for their misfortunes or difficulties.
So what is missing here? The attitude of gratitude. But for that we need to humble ourselves, to put down our egos. Only then can we truly feel grateful.
A parent makes mistakes. Hashem does not.
Hashem wants to bestow all manner of goodness upon His children. So thank Hashem for everything He gave you up to this time, knowing it is for the best. Every day that Hashem continues to give you a particular deficiency or does not bestow upon you the blessings you want, is a new test. A new opportunity to thank Hashem. In truth every difficulty , suffering or lack we experience is really for the good. It truly raises up to higher levels of holiness, closeness to Hashem and emuna. It helps one to see the world in a different light. It is actually from a higher level than revealed good, as the Alter Rebbe expolains in Tanya.
But as human beings we want and need open revealed good. So also pray that from now on Hashem should help you rectify whatever the spiritual reason is for any deficiency, lack or suffering. And things should change to a revealed good that one can appreciate. We ask Hashem never to test us and not to put us through challenges. But if we find ourselves with challenges, we need to deal with them the right way so they turn into positive experiences that uplift us to a higher spiritual level.
The key is to be bsimcha, happy, no matter what is going on and to pass over one’s feelings, worries, fears and put one’s total trust in Hashem. With that attitude one can feel gratitude and love for Hashem and all the harsh gezeras or gevurot are truly nullified and the hidden good is revealed.
And so it is with galut, exile: we need to open our eyes and see the hidden goodness and holiness within the galut and reveal that hidden G-dliness. And that is what true geulah is. May we merit Moshiach and the complete redemption now.