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Leah and the Lesson of Gratitude

May 9, 2009 | by Lori Palatnik

Being a Jew is synonymous with expressing gratitude. Our matriarch Leah taught us to see everything in life as a gift.

"From
the day that God created the world, there was no one who thanked God until Leah
came and thanked Him." (The Talmud)

Leah,
married to Jacob, was one of the mothers of the Jewish people. In the passage
above the Talmud is referring to the birth of Leah's fourth son, Judah. The
name Judah shares the same root in Hebrew as the word todah, meaning
"thank you." But what does the Talmud mean when it says that Leah was
the first person to ever really thank God?

Abraham
never thanked God? Noah never thanked God? Sarah never thanked God? Of course,
they did. In fact, many people had thanked God in the Torah long before Leah.
Therefore, the Talmud must be telling us that there was something special about
Leah's thankfulness. Her gratitude must have been somehow truer and deeper than
that of anyone who had come before her.

By
understanding what made Leah's gratitude special, we will learn what true
gratefulness is all about.

SEEING
EVERYTHING AS A GIFT

Leah was
a prophetess who knew that the Jewish nation was destined to descend from the
12 sons of Jacob, her husband. Each tribe would be a foundation stone that
would shape our history. Jacob's sons would come from four women: Leah, Rachel,
Bilha, and Zilpah. Leah expected that each woman would have 3 sons.

Leah's thankfulness for the birth of Judah was deeper and more heartfelt because he was unexpected.

Judah
was Leah's fourth son. She recognized that he was one more than her share. Her
thankfulness for Judah was deeper and more heartfelt because he was unexpected.
He was a gift.

This is
how we are supposed to view everything in life. Every ray of sunshine,
every child, every breath -- they are all gifts from God.

The
mistake of thinking any thing is owed to us blocks us from gratitude.

People
sometimes don't appreciate sight until they meet someone who is blind. We
shouldn't wait until we are sick to appreciate our health. We should count our
blessings every day and take pleasure in the miraculous gifts bestowed upon us.

BEGINNING
THE DAY WITH GRATITUDE

Jewish
consciousness says that every morning we should rise with the prayer, Modeh
Ani
: "I am grateful to God for bringing life to me each and every
day."

At our
time of sorrow, when we have lost a loved one, we are forced to stand and face
our own mortality. We do not live forever, and we do not know from one day to
the next when our time will come. All we can do is say, Modeh Ani:
"I am grateful to God, for giving me another day, and another opportunity
to use it wisely."

Our
religion is called "Judaism" from Judah. The essence of being a Jew
is to be thankful. Realize, as Leah did, that every moment of life is a gift.
Open the gift and take pleasure in its Source.

Adapted
from Lori Palatnik's
Remember My Soul
Buy the book from
amazon.com




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