Rabbi’s April 2023 Column

Shalom All,

This month, as we head into Passover, we find ourselves reading from the book of Leviticus in our Torah. Leviticus distinguishes itself by being primarily about the sacrifices that were required at the Temple in Jerusalem.

One of the most important sacrifices discussed in Leviticus is the offering of wellbeing or thanks. It is a central feature of a Jew to give thanks – to God, to others, even to the world around us which offers so much to us.

The root of todah – thanks, is connected to the word “modeh – teacher”. This, in itself, an admittance that we are not perfect and totally self-sustaining. Therefore, we should regularly thank and acknowledge those upon whom we depend for our lives and our livelihoods.

So important is giving thanks, that the midrash tells us that all the other sacrifices, the burnt offering, the sin offering, and the guilt offering, will be discontinued in the days of the Messiah, but the sacrifice of wellbeing will remain. Even in the world to come we will continue to give thanks.

While the sacrifice of wellbeing does not exist today, we do have a modern-day equivalent: the Birkat HaGomel – the Blessing for Deliverance, which is to be recited, traditional, in four specific instances: recovery from a serious illness, escape from a dangerous or life-threatening situation, being freed from prison, or crossing an ocean or a desert.

Interestingly enough, all four of these “deliverance” situations occurred during our ancestors Exodus from Egypt. We recovered from our spiritual malaise and the depression which gripped us as slaves; we were freed from the vast prison that was Pharaoh’s Egypt; we safely crossed the Red Sea and, of course, we successfully made our way through the desert to Mt. Sinai and the Land of Israel!

Moreover, all of us, at one time or another, face the same crises as our ancestors did: We struggle against illness – be it physical or emotional – stress, despondency, or lack of faith. We often feel trapped, as if in prison, within the confines of financial or societal constraints. And making our way through the challenges of life can be like crossing a vast ocean or desert and battling the elements which confront us until we reach “the other side”.

Therefore, we should, at all times, offer thanks to God, for our “lives which are in God’s hands, and our souls which are in God’s keeping.” Indeed, the entire message of Passover is about appreciating God and showing our gratitude for our redemption.

Baruch atah, Adonai Eloheinu, melech haolam, hagomel l’chayavim tovot, sheg’malani kol tov. Blessed are You, Adonai our God, ruler of the universe, who bestows goodness upon the wayfarer, who bestows every good to me.

And to us all.

Chag Sameach everyone.
May you have a meaningful and thankful Passover.