We must learn to appreciate what we have and not always look for the negatives. It is difficult because there are forces that affect us. We must earn a living, eat and sleep. There are other personal matters and family matters to attend. So, how much time remains for us each day to satisfy our true needs and pursue higher goals that would allow us to think positively?
The importance of pushing ourselves to think positive and be positive is mentioned in the beginning of this week’s Parsha. We read about the Mitzva of Bikurim - bringing the first produce to the Bais Hamikdash. It was not all first produce that was brought. Rather, the only produce brought for this mitzva was the first produce of the seven species that bring praise to the land of Israel – wheat, barley, grapes, figs, pomegranates, olives and dates. The Talmud teaches us that the mitzva was performed with much pomp and circumstance.
A key component of the ceremony was the the owner of the produce reading a series of verses related to this mitzva. He began with the famous words that are quoted in the Haggadah – “An Aramean tried to destroy my father.”
Then the travels to Egypt, the hardships there, the davening to G-d, G-d rescuing the Jewish people and bringing us to a land that flows with milk and honey. The Torah concludes with the words, “and you shall be happy with all the good that G-d has given to you and your household . . .”
G-d has given us so much good. Yet, when committees, groups or organizations open themselves up to comments, what is the most frequent response? Something that is wrong.
Human nature seems to be that it looks for the negatives and not so much for the positives. But the Torah wants us to change that nature. The Torah wants us to look positively at others and at life in general and it starts from the moment we get up every morning. The first words that we utter daily are supposed to be, “Modeh Ani . . .” I thank you G-d for restoring to me my soul.” We start the day on a positive note. G-d willing, that will carry over to the remainder of the day.
The inclination towards negativity is so great that even the greatest of people can be entrapped in it. In the Book of Breishis, we read that when Yaakov first met the Pharaoh, the Pharaoh asked him his age. Ya’akov responded, “The years of my sojourn are 130. Few and bad have been the years of my life, nor do they come to the life spans of my fathers during their sojourns.” The Rabbis teach us that Ya’akov was punished for his response. G-d said to Ya’akov, “What do you mean your days were ‘few and bad’? I saved you from Esav . . . I saved you from Lavan . . . I saved you from Esav’s guardian angel . . . I saved you from Shechem . . . I gave you a large family . . . I returned Yosef to you.” G-d told Ya’akov that there was so much good that He did for him. Where was his gratitude?
Towards the end of every Shmone Esrai, there is a bracha called “Modim”. We give thanks to G-d for our lives, for our souls, for the daily miracles that He does for us, and for the wonders and goodness that He does for us at all times. The Rabbis in establishing this bracha were trying to make us realize how fortunate we are. Look at all the good we have! Appreciate what you have!
When a person appreciates what they have, their soul is satisfied, and they can “Serve G-d in happiness” as King David wrote in Psalm 100. The person then connects with his/her soul – not only when studying Torah, davening and doing mitzvos, but also when eating, sleeping and doing all daily activities.
As we approach the New Year, through showing and expressing our appreciation to G-d for all the good that He does for us, may He bless us that we continue to see the good, with a year of health and happiness.