The Torah’s View On Gratitude

Walking in the park, a woman one day stumbled upon a diamond ring. As she reached for her bag to store her precious find, an alms seeking vagabond appeared with an outstretched hand. Yet nothing she offered seemed to satisfy him.

“What do you want,” the woman finally exclaimed. “That’s what I want,” insisted the beggar, pointing to the glimmering little object in her hand.

With little hesitation or ado the woman proceeded to hand the jewel over: “Here,” she said, “It’s all yours.” Unable to thank her enough, the man was soon on his way, but not for long.

A short time later the beggar sought out the woman again. “I wish to return the diamond,” he declared: “It’s not what I want; I seek something far more precious.”

“But what have I to share that is more precious than a diamond,” cried the woman.

“Your giving heart,” said the stranger. “Please teach me the secret behind your giving heart!”

If there is a single denominator that unites humanity, it is the quest for happiness. Despite the myriad ways at which we come at it, happiness is the core objective for which all humans strives.

Still, centuries of pursuit notwithstanding, the search for this coveted attribute endures. A visit to any bookstore or library reveals the copious range of contemporary works that deal with this subject. The list includes titles like, The Science of Happiness, The Art of Happiness, The Pursuit of Happiness, Finding Contentment, A Journey to Contentment, In Quest of Contentment and on it goes.

Our country’s founding fathers have gone as far as to insert the “pursuit of happiness” into the Declaration of Independence, as an inalienable “right." They have set man’s freedom to pursue happiness, along with life and liberty, as the Divine cornerstone and destiny of our nation.


Yet happiness remains rather obscure and elusive.

What after all is happiness?

Some people confuse happiness with pleasure; this is obviously a critical error. While pleasure is sure to make us happy, it is a rather shallow and fleeting form of happiness – not entirely different from the pleasure acquired through the use of mind altering chemicals. The moment it wears off, it’s back to reality.

Happiness is not about finding a way to escape ourselves and reality but rather to make peace with it.

There are after all only so many vacations we can take, so many cruises on which to elope, so many gadgets to divert our attention. Sooner or later the distractions and diversions run out and we are left with our good-old-selves to contend with.

Happiness in the end is to cherish the life that is, not the one that was or might be – it is to face yourself in the mirror and like what you see.

Happiness is an existential state of contentment and worth, rather than a never ending series of pleasurable pursuits and fixes.

We must focus our attention on how it is achieved.

Happiness begins by focusing on the half full part of the glass, rather than on the part which is empty, as goes the old adage: “I used to cry that I had no shoes, until I met the guy who had no feet.”

We must stop looking at the relative or neighbor that drives a nicer car than us and start looking at the neighbor that’s driving the “Clunker” – who would give anything for a car like ours.

If you seek a life of contentment and joy, says the Torah, you must begin by recognizing the blessings in your life and from whence they stem. Were it not for G‑d's blessings, nothing would produce.

But it doesn’t end there. Once you get out of your funk – once you realize how much you really have to be thankful for and to whom, you must do something about it.

Connected on the other end of the Divine promise for happiness, are the instructions of our obligation to give a percentage of our income to the poor, the orphans and the widows.

True happiness is obtained only when we look after the poor and needy. The act of sharing with others and providing for the less fortunate is what allows us the joy in what we have and the license to possess it.

Everyone has a reason to be grateful and everyone has the ability to express it. If only through a smile or a thank you. Indeed, a small and trivial gesture often strikes deep in the heart of fellow man. There is no such thing, however, as gratitude unexpressed. If it is unexpressed, it is plain old-fashioned ingratitude. There are 86,400 seconds in a day, it only takes one to say "Thank you."

We humans have an almost infinite capacity for taking things for granted. While most people would not admit to being ungrateful, it’s because that attitude has become ingrained in their lives to the extent that they don’t even realize it.

May we take the lessons of sharing words of gratitude towards G‑d and mankind. This, as stated above will bring true joy and meaning to our own lives and cause unity between man and G‑d and man and his fellow man, which will hasten the coming of Moshiach.