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Jewish World Review
December 5, 2008
/ 8 Kislev 5769
Truth The Key to Gratitude
Rabbi A. Henach Leibowitz
Ironies and attitudes in the pursuit of perfection
And she [Leah] said, "This time I will praise G-d ...
The Midrash (Bereishis Rabbah 71:5) teaches
us that with the above declaration Leah practiced the art of
giving thanks or praise, and therefore she became the progenitor
of others who had the same characteristic
Judah and King David. Judah,
the Midrash explains, exemplified this
trait with his statement regarding Tamar, "She is more righteous
than I" (ibid. 38:26). King David exclaimed, "Give thanks to G-d because
He is good" (Psalms 138).
While Leah and King David's statements clearly share a common thread of praise, Judah's admission of guilt appears to have no connection with this attribute. Tamar was
being taken to be executed and Judah confessed that she was innocent
he was the father of Tamar's children. How does this have
any bearing on Judah's characteristic of giving thanks?
The ability to give thanks and the ability to confess one's wrongdoing stem from a common source the recognition
of truth. Indeed, the Hebrew word for praise derives from the same root as the Hebrew word for admitting. A person who is truthful will recognize and acknowledge the bountiful blessings the Divine bestows upon him. By the same
token, he will recognize and admit his shortcomings.
The same poison of haughtiness that drives a person to deny his dependency
upon G-d, to blind himself to the constant goodness that sustains
him, will also drive him to deny that he is fallible. Only a sincere
and truthful heart can dispel this fog of arrogance, see through
its falsehood, and recognize the sobering reality.
Had Leah not excelled in the attribute of truth had
she not admitted how much gratitude she owed G-d, then
she would not have had a descendant such as Judah, who
excelled in truthfulness and was therefore able to confess his
mistake. Even though the birth of a child was clearly a gift from
G-d, still Leah could have attributed it to some extent to her
own might and power had she not reached such perfection in the
characteristic of truth.
When we look at our own lives and see how fortunate we are, how comfortably we live with health and satisfaction, with family and friends, with freedom and security we can fail to make the connection between these blessings and the Divine. Ironically, those same benefits that should motivate us to thank G-d can cause complacency and smug confidence in our own abilities.
If, however, we focus the penetrating spotlight of truth on the situation, the truth will stare us in the face we are
helpless on our own, and only through G-d's infinite kindness do we enjoy all this goodness. This "confession" of truth will
not only enable us to admit our indebtedness; it will bring about an equally crucial honesty in dealing with our errors and sins.
The result a healthy blend of gratitude and praise to G-d combined with a frank and candid view of our actions that will
help us improve ourselves will bring us eternal happiness both in this world and in the World-to-Come.
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One of America's senior Torah sages, the late Rabbi A. Henach Leibowitz was the dean of the Rabbinical Seminary of America, in Queens, New York for more than 50 years. The institution has branches and affiliates all across North America and Israel.
This article was prepared by two of the sage's disciples, Rabbi Aryeh Striks and Rabbi Shimon Zehnwirth, and excerpted from the just released book, "Pinnacle of Creation: Torah insights into human nature".
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© 2007, Mesorah Publications, Ltd.