PARSHAT SHLACH: THE ATTITUDE OF GRATITUDE
By Sherrie B. Miller
Each morning upon awakening, the first thing we do is utter the words, “modeh ani”, thanking Hashem for restoring our souls to us after the night’s sleep. We are taught this prayer almost as early as we begin to speak for it is incumbent upon us to realize our indebtedness towards Hashem for all the blessings and unearned gifts that He bestows upon us. We are taught very early on, not to take things for granted.
It is natural for people to stand up and pay attention to the horror of a tsunami, when nature goes awry, yet when nature takes its course and the oceans are contained within their boundaries and don’t overflow or go haywire, we just accept it as the expected order of things.
How many of us wake up in the morning and really count our blessings? Do we really feel gratitude to Hashem that was can see? That we can walk? That we can talk? That we can hear? I dare say that many of us are guilty of taking these precious gifts and so many others for granted!
“Modeh ani” comes from the word “hodaya” which means thanks (todah). Todah is also derived from the word “hodaah” which means to admit. In addition to giving thanks to Hashem for all of His constant blessings, we admit that we unable to accomplish anything without the help of Hashem. Gratitude is a positive state of mind and expressing it gives us a sense of abundance and well being in addition to bringing great contentment to the recipient.
In this week’s Parshat Shlach, we see the tragic consequence of ingratitude; when the spies return from The Land that Hashem promised them, The Land of milk and honey, they complain that it will be too difficult to conquer do to the fact that giants inhabit it and are much stronger than them. Hashem’s resounding disappointment in their report is: “To what point will this people anger Me, and how long will they not have faith in Me, despite all the signs that I have performed in its midst?” Their unappreciative attitude resulted in 40 years of wandering in the desert, instead of being led directly into the Promised Land.
Ingratitude causes us to magnify the negative while minimizing and ignoring the overwhelmingly positive aspects of a relationship. When we become aware that no one “owes us” anything and become aware of the fact that when we are the recipients of kindheartedness, appreciation for such kindness must not go unnoticed nor unexpressed.
Gratitude and appreciation are essential keys and necessary character traits in building a loving relationship. The more I notice my partner’s acts of kindness, and express my appreciation, the more I relay the message: “I do not take you for granted. It is not understood that you MUST do nice things for me. I am grateful to you for what you do for me.” This attitude of gratitude in turn creates a desire to continue this loving behavior as well as creating a reciprocal cycle of continuous benevolence on both individuals in a relationship. We all thrive on compliments and appreciation!
Two psychologists, Emmons and McCollough, have begun doing research on the link between gratitude and good physical and mental health. They discovered that those that made daily lists of things for which they were grateful were more alert, enthusiastic, determined, optimistic and full of energy. In addition, they found that people who feel grateful are also more likely to feel loved!
It is wise when dating and seriously seeking a mate, to observe the behavior of your date look for signs of the midah of “hakaros hatov.” This trait can be gleaned by observing how your date treats a waiter or a bus driver, how they describe their relationship with friends and family in terms of their appreciation for chessed that they have received. At the end of the date, do you thank the person you were with for a nice evening? (Does your date thank YOU for a nice evening?) Do you thank your shadchan for their effort, even if it was not your best date?
You can choose to be grateful! When we focus on the many things that we have to be thankful for, it puts a smile on our face and gives us a positive outlook on life. An upbeat attitude attracts people to us and makes them feel good being around us!
Sherrie B. Miller is a Jewish matchmaker on www.sawyouatsinai.com and a dating coach in Jerusalem. She received her counseling degree from the Michlala in Jerusalem and an M.A. in Jewish Education from Touro College. Sherrie is certified by Midreshet Emunah and is accredited by the Rabbanut of Israel, to be a pre-marital couple’s counselor and Kallah teacher.