("Let's table the discussion" is a new Adath Israel Shul initiative where a story or thought is presented in order to stimulate exciting and constructive discussion around our Shabbos table or among friends and children.)
Once upon a time, there was a king who hired two master painters to beautify his palace. As befitting a man of his stature, the master painters were world renown and came from a faraway country. Upon arrival, one of the painters took sick with a serious illness that required royal medical treatment. The Kings’ top physicians took care of the master painter and restored his health.
In the meantime, his partner on the project continued to work. Not only did he complete his assigned tasks, his diligence at the job allowed him to complete the assignments of his ill partner as well.
Satisfied with the work, the king decided to pay in full. Not only did the king pay the painter who had done the work, he also paid the one who had come from afar and gotten sick – recognizing that the illness was beyond his control.
Naturally, as both experts took leave of the king, they sent letters filled with gratitude. To the one who had done the work, the king sent a second check – as a means of saying thank you for the letter that had been sent.
When his royal subjects ask the king why he did not send a parallel check to the other painter, they assumed that he did not write as nice a letter as his partner. “Quite to the contrary,” responded the king. “His letter was actually more complimentary and thankful than the other one. However, he was OBLIGATED to write such a letter. After all, he was paid handsomely for work he never completed. On the other hand, the other painter was paid as per our agreement. His letter of gratitude was above and beyond. As a result I felt I had to honor him accordingly.”
The Ben Ish Chai notes that Hashem sends his help and assistance to the Jewish people through two primary means: He conducts miracles overtly and covertly. When miracles occur overtly, it is easy for one to see Hashem’s hand in daily events and the need to thank Him. However, when we recognize the hand of Hashem even when he acts covertly, He feels an even more overwhelming desire to continue to protect us and help ease our continued success.
The Ben Ish Chai adds that this may help us understand why we state in the Hallel that “This event is from Hashem, it is wonderous in our eyes” and immediately add “This is the day created by Hashem and we will rejoice and be thankful for it (Tehillim 118:23-24).” When we recognize the hand that Hashem plays in daily events we merit to experience more of Hashem’s hand. Hence we immediately continue “Ana Hashem Hoshiya Na.”
World renown organizational psychologist and former Harvard professor, Tal Ben Shahar notes that getting into the habit of gratitude can significantly increase our levels of happiness. Citing research by research by McAuliffe, he adds that people “who each night before going to sleep write at least five things for which they are grateful, big things or little things, are happier, more optimistic, more successful, more likely to achieve their goals, physically healthier; it actually strengthens our immune system, and are more generous and benevolent toward others.”
What can WE do to increase our experience of gratitude both to Hashem, and even to those around us – spouses, parents, children, neighbors and others to make our lives more enriched and fulfilled?
At the same time, the attitude of gratitude is not one that can be achieved in thought alone. Rav Wolbe (Alei Shor Ii:279) notes that gratitude in thought alone without its verbal expression, falls terribly short.
In our interpersonal relationships, as well as in our relationships with Hashem verbalizing genuine gratitude will help us develop into stronger, better, more enriched and nurturing people who will, in turn experience more out of life itself. How can WE more fully give expression to our thanks?
Let’s “table” the discussion – by discussing it with our children, spouses, families and guests and open an exciting discussion into our homes and community.