People often ask: Why do you devote so much spiritual energy to gratefulness? After all, there are many other spiritual ideas and practices that are of equal importance!
A partial answer can be found in the Torah reading of this past Shabbat-Parashat Ki Tavo. A major section of the reading is quite depressing and demoralizing. It graphically outlines the curses, the punishments, the catastrophic suffering that will befall those who disobey God’s Torah.
“All these curses shall befall you…because you did not heed the Lord your God and keep the commandments and laws that He enjoined upon you.”(Deut. 28:45)
Here we encounter the curse of behavioral disobedience. Yet, most interestingly and for me a complete revelation, is the verse that follows.
“Because you did not serve the Lord your God in joy and gladness over the abundance of everything.”(V.47)
The Hebrew-“U’vtuv lev”- lit. with goodness or fullness of heart, can be translated as gratefulness. Furthermore, the curse befalls us if we are unable to be grateful not only for specially valuable or precious things, but “me’rov kol”-for the abundance contained in all things, in everything. Another way of interpreting the phrase-“me’rov kol” is by translating the words as “most of everything is good!” Life is far from perfect and no one is spared suffering or hardship. By and large, however, life holds out a gift that warrants gratefulness and generosity. The nature of the world is such that life unfolds with the “greatest good for the greatest number.” Most babies survive birth and are healthy; most people have the bare necessities of life; many are the moments in life when we can rejoice and celebrate. This of course, is not to suggest that there aren’t many who are hungry and impoverished for whom we should invest resources and concern. Injustice abounds; but so much of that is human neglect and greed, not the withholding of nature’s bounty.
The Torah statement is a ringing declaration of a fundamental spiritual truth: At the heart of blessing is the capacity to experience all things gratefully. Conversely, the absence of gratefulness creates a spiritual void that is filled with the perception of being cursed.
Choose life –cultivate gratefulness and be blessed.