Jewish Wisdom for Goys & Gers


Korban Todah – The Sacrifice of Thanksgiving

For an explanation of korban todah from a theologian, please download No Leftovers from the book The Heart of Torah by my good friend and co-worker Rabbi Shai Held.  Meanwhile, I would like to share with you what the Sacrifice of Thanksgiving means to me on a personal level.

Living in the U.S., the holiday of Thanksgiving is particularly difficult for me, because the Friday before Thanksgiving the love of my life died unexpectedly and suddenly in my arms.

This is the second year that, as Thanksgiving approaches, I started feeling sad, a bit depressed, panicky, and ungrateful for anything.

But this year, I was inspired to reflect on the concept of gratitude/thanksgiving, since this was the theme of our weekend at synagogue.

In my Wednesday morning prayer and reflection, I realized how it’s so easy in life to be grateful, feel gratitude, and thank God and others when everything is going our way, even if our cup is only “half full.”

But what happens when our cup is half empty, or completely dry? Where do we find feelings of gratitude when our life is falling apart all around us. And why should we have any gratitude in these times, anyway?

When everything in life goes bad, this is precisely when thanksgiving (or gratitude) becomes a sacrifice!

In Psalm 116:17 we read:

לְֽךָ־אֶ֭זְבַּח זֶ֣בַח תּוֹדָ֑ה וּבְשֵׁ֖ם יְהוָ֣ה אֶקְרָֽא׃

I will sacrifice a thank offering to You and invoke the name of the LORD.

Two years ago today, the love of my life died unexpectedly in my arms. I don’t thank God for that tragedy, nor do I feel grateful for the nightmare that ensued.

Actually, I didn’t and never will try to read God’s hand in it or attempt to interpret some sort of God’s purpose for it.

But in my time of need and desperation, I did call on the name of the Lord to ask God to help. This was my first step in sacrificing a thank offering.

Then I continued reading in Psalm 118:1, which says:

הוֹד֣וּ לַיהוָ֣ה כִּי־ט֑וֹב כִּ֖י לְעוֹלָ֣ם חַסְדּֽוֹ׃

Praise the LORD, for He is good, His steadfast love is eternal.

I realized this week that my gratitude does not depend on me or my circumstances. It depends on 2 facts: God is good and God loves me.

God knows the best for me. God wants the best for me. God has all power to provide what’s best for me, because God loves me.

Believe it or not, right after my reflection and readings of the Psalms, I headed off to the subway…. As I was crossing the street a truck passed me with the huge letters: God is good all the time, so get to work!

Coincidence? Maybe, but I prefer to think that God loves me and is for me and with me!

So when everything in life falls apart, remember: God is good and God loves you! This will instill you with the gratitude to offer to God a sacrifice of thanksgiving.

This is the essence of Judaism!

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