Not long ago, upon hearing some comments about gratefulness and its spiritual and emotional importance, a woman asked me a thought- provoking question: " If one is grateful or satisfied, is there room for ambition, for the need to try and change things? Why work for anything if one feels satisfied with what one has?"
In other words, does gratefulness lead to passivity? If we were all grateful, would this not mean that we would be satisfied with the status quo and no progress or improvement would be made?
Let us consider the moral implications of gratefulness. When one is genuinely grateful for receiving a gift, what one receives is treasured and cared for with a sense of abiding concern. Satisfaction without a sense of stewardship for what one is graced with is an expression of selfishness and not gratefulness. To be grateful implies the response of responsibility for the gift one has been blessed with. Recognizing all of life as a gift requires an exceptionally acute awareness of responsibility for the preservation and cultivation of any and all aspects of that which increases and enriches life in all its myriad forms.
If given a plant, do we not understand that our gratefulness is a reflection of the preciousness of the object summoning us to tend to the plant with an on-going sense of grateful responsibility and care?
We are informed by the early narrative of Genesis that Adam was placed in the Garden of Eden " to till it and to tend it."Taking the world and human existence for granted is to be blind not only to life's wonders but to the moral obligations of bettering and improving life and the world around us, our individual gardens and those shared by all of us.
An attitude of entitlement leads to inaction; a perspective of life as a matter of luck or chance is likewise one that does not promote any individual response of active concern and involvement. Only gratefulness generates an attitude of genuine caring and a concomitant commitment to the process of continuous tending of the garden of life, in all the splendor of its lush and abundant growth.
The Torah reading this Shabbat,"Tetzaveh," 0pens with the requirement to establish an Eternal or perpetual light above the Ark of the Covenant. This light is designed to reflect the glow of God's presence in the unfolding of life's marvels and mysteries. Only if we persist in kindling the lamp of gratefulness will the dark corners of our lives be illuminated to reveal their authentic beauty and blessing.