Beit Midrash

  • Torah Portion and Tanach
  • Tzav
To dedicate this lesson

Think “thanks!”


Rabbi Stewart Weiss

The moment we open our eyes in the morning – before we even get out of bed – we begin our day by saying "Modeh Ani – I am thankful (or admit)" to you, Hashem." There is no more important word in Hebrew than "Toda," nor in English than "Thank You."

And so the Midrash tells us that in the end of days, when sin will be removed from the world, all the offerings listed in our Sedra will be obsolete – except for one, the Korban Toda, the Thanks-Offering. Giving thanks will never become outdated.

This message is subtly communicated via the Tefilot, which replaced korbanot when the Bet HaMikdash was destroyed. In the most important of these prayers, the Amida, one can merely listen & answer "Amen" to the Chazan's repetition. EXCEPT when it comes to the Modim, or thanksgiving prayer. That must be said by each person individually; thanks can never, ever be taken for granted.

And here is the connection to Pesach: If one had to synthesize all of the elaborate Pesach rituals into one idea, one central message, it would be Hakarat HaTov, the acknowledgement that we owe everything to Hashem, & must constantly tell him so, by simply saying, "Toda."

That is why there were 10 Plagues, & not just one; so that we could "get in the habit" of appreciating all the things G-d does for us. That is why the Dayenu has 15 distinct levels of recognition, cataloguing the way in which the Almighty literally moved Heaven & Earth for us each step of the way, from servitude in Egypt to liberation to entering Israel to building the Bet HaMikdash. Every step elicits our sincere gratitude to G-d.

Not because Hashem needs our thanks, per se. But because He loves us, & because He wants to mold us into a spiritually-refined being that recognizes all the many gifts which we have been given, & encourage us to share those gifts with others. The knowledge that you have been blessed must motivate you to bless others in turn.

Perhaps that is why the Torah specifies that the korban Toda must always be accompanied by Matzot, as a way of reminding us that the ultimate Chesed done for us in history was when Hashem intervened in the state of natural human affairs in order to extricate us from Egypt & elevate us above all the nations. That deserves thanks.

Yet, having said that, the prophet Yirmiyahu & others tell us that the time will come when the miracles of Mitzrayim will pale compared to the wonders heaped upon us when we return to Israel, the exiles are in-gathered & the Final Redemption arrives. THAT will be the pinnacle of history, surpassing the Exodus, & we will then truly reach the highest stage of being a "Yehudi - one who gives thanks."

Chag Pesach Kasher V’sameach!
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