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Home » Events in the News, Ki Tavo

Ki Tavo : The art of gratitude

Submitted by on September 21, 2005 – 11:16 amNo Comment | 2,824 views

Many Helping Hands

Ben Zoma used to say,”How many labors Adam carried out before he obtained bread to eat! He plowed, he sowed, he reaped, he bound, he threshed and winnowed and selected the ears, he ground, and sifted, he kneaded and baked, and then at last he ate; whereas I get up, and find all these things done for me.” (1)

In our generation of instant satisfaction, the art of gratitude is nearly lost. How often do we pause to consider the seamstress who tailored the shirts that we wear? The truck driver who delivered the goods that we purchase at the store? The many hands that labor in the background to provide our many comforts?

The farmer grows the wheat, the wholesaler sells, the distributor supplies, the truck driver delivers, the baker kneads and bakes and the salesperson sells the bread. If you consider them, their support staff and those who provide the background material and ingredients, it requires hundreds of laborers to provide a single dinner plate.

The Heroes of Katrina

In the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, we quickly learned to appreciate the beauty of helping hands. Images of generous souls, working day and night to provide a modicum of relief, were constantly flashed across our television screens.

The helicopter rescues of people stranded on rooftops in treacherous conditions. The bus drivers, who drove day and night to lead the victims to safety. The thousands who opened their homes to victims and the army of volunteers who, literally overnight, transformed the Houston Astrodome into a welcoming haven of refuge.

The residents of the Gulf states are forever indebted to these generous souls and will surely remember this debt long after they have rebuilt their lives. We too are grateful to those who have stepped in to save lives. This gratitude can serve as a yardstick to measure the gratitude we have in other areas of our lives.the art of gratitude - innerstream

Gratitude for Torah

If we must learn to be grateful to those who provide for many of our physical needs then we must surely learn to appreciate those who provide our spiritual ones.

In the Torah we read that Moses rebuked our ancestors for not having served G-d with gladness and goodness of heart, when “everything” was abundant. (2) The Talmud teaches that the word “everything” refers to the Torah. (3) According to at least one commentator, our ancestors were chided because they were ungrateful for the gift of Torah. (4)

When we observe the Torah, we validate not only our mandate but also the millions who sacrificed much to attain and preserve it. Conversely, when we abandon the Torah, we betray not only our mandate but also their many sacrifices.

Points of Sacrifice

Our patriarch, Abraham, born to idolatrous parents, was unschooled in matters of monotheism. He struggled for many years and finally discovered the one true G-d. After his discovery, his troubles intensified. He was persecuted and reviled by family and friends alike. All of Mesopotamia turned against him. His was a lone voice, preaching to an unsympathetic audience, until G-d compassionately directed him to Canaan, a land slightly more sympathetic to his views.

Our patriarch, Jacob, worked for his father-in-law, Laban, for twenty years to marry and raise a family loyal to the Torah. During this time, he was manipulated, mocked and deceived. He was devastated by the loss of his son Joseph. He later moved to Egypt during a famine and died in a foreign land so that his fledgling family might survive.

In Egypt, this family suffrered for many years, under harsh conditions of slavery, so that they might merit receiving the Torah. Their suffering refined their characters and transformed them into a people worthy of G-d’s mandate.

They gathered at Sinai and were finally given six hundred and thirteen commandments. Each commandment was a glittering luminary, a star that radiated the light of G-d. Each commandment formed a conduit through which G-d and the Jewish people could connect and coalesce into a single entity.

Yet for many generations, our scholars and sages were forced to teach the Torah under the most trying conditions. They transmitted the Torah to subsequent generations, often at the cost of their own lives. They sacrificed their lives but bequeathed the commentaries that guide our study and observance to this very day.

Validating the Sacrifice

Abraham paved the path of our destiny. Our ancestors lined that path with their suffering and tears. The great scholars of Jewish history wrote meticulous maps that accurately guide us along that path.

Reflecting upon the sacrifices that brought the Torah to our generation must surely suffuse us with gratitude toward our ancestors for making those sacrifices, and toward
G-d, for permitting us to benefit.

We should welcome the opportunity to validate their sacrifice through the study of Torah. And to actualize their dream through the observance of the commandments.

This opportunity is provided to us free of charge. We are not asked to sacrifice for it or to be worthy of it.

We are simply asked to accept it.

Accepting it demonstrates our gratitude. Accepting it validates their sacrifice.


  1. Bab. Talmud Brachos, 58ª.
  2. Deuteronomy 28, 47.
  3. Bab. Talmud Nedarim, 41a.
  4. Commentary of Meshech Chochmo on Deuteronomy 28, 48.

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