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Beit Midrash פרשת שבוע ותנ"ך צו
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THANK YOU, G-D

Rabbi Stewart WeissAdar II 13 5779
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The moment we wake up (before we put on our makeup) - sorry, I'm writing this erev Purim, couldn’t resist that! - we say a little prayer called Modeh Ani: "I am thankful (or admit) to you, Hashem..." There is no more important word in Hebrew or English than "Toda - 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 will be obsolete except for one, the Korban Toda, the ThanksOffering mentioned in our Sedra. Giving thanks will never, ever become outdated.

This message is also communicated in our Tefilot, which replaced the korbanot when the Bet HaMikdash was destroyed. In the most important prayer, the Amida, one can merely listen & say Amen to the Chazan's repetition. Except, that is, when it comes to the Modim, or thanksgiving prayer. That must be said individually by each person; for thanks must be constantly focused upon & should never be taken for granted.

Today, while all other offerings have been suspended, we still have a remnant of the Korban Toda, represented in the Birkat Ha-Gomel blessing that we say on 4 different occasions: When one has crossed an ocean or desert;when he has been released from prison; when one recovers from a serious illness; or any time one has encountered a life-threatening situation - & survived it. He then gives thanks to Hashem via this unique bracha.

Now, while the Ha-Gomel blessing must certainly be taken literally, & applied in these specific instances, I suggest that there is another way of approaching it, as well. You see, each of us contains a precious soul, a Neshama that gives us our own special character that links us to G-d & must be carefully safeguarded from the many dangers which threaten it. And these dangers to the soul are all encapsulated in the various categories of the Ha-Gomel.

Think about it: At times our Neshama drifts far, far away from us, as we over-concentrate on the physical side of life; our pure soul seems to be across some distant ocean, or wandering aimlessly in a desert. At other times, we consciously reject the spiritual responsibilities that are incumbent upon us, locking our Neshama, as it were, in a self-made prison. And still at other times, nebuch, our Neshamot are just plain sick. They need nurturing & healing, a healthy dose of Torah learning & Mitzvot & acts of Chesed are the medicine to repair & rejuvenate them.

If we care for our Neshamot - as least as much as we worry about our bodies - we will reach a truly elevated place, & our life will be one that is truly to be thankful for.
Rabbi Stewart Weiss
Was ordained at the Hebrew Theological College in Skokie, Illinois, and led congregations in Chicago and Dallas prior to making Aliyah in 1992. He directs the Jewish Outreach Center in Ra'anana, helping to facilitate the spiritual absorption of new olim.
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