Remember the now famous story of the kidnapped Israeli soldier, Nachson Wachsman. Do you remember how Klal Yisroel stormed the gates of heaven to plead for his salvation from the hands of those bloodthirsty terrorists?
Ultimately, however, Hashem decreed otherwise and the terrorists who kidnapped him, killed him in a most brutal and public way.
I will never forget how disillusioned I was afterwards. Here the Jewish people prayed in unison as one and yet, God seemingly didn’t hear our prayers.
However, Nachshon’s mother Esther had her own thoughts to share and in her very public display of faith, she explained how Hashem did indeed hear all of our prayers, but he simply said no.
She went on to state that although a parent always listens to the cries and pleas of a child, the parent in knowing what is inherently best for that child will sometimes answer in manner that is contrary to what the child desires. This too is a response and stemming from a place filled with as much love, compassion and empathy for the child. She thanked Hashem for the time that she did have with her child and for the gift that was Nachshon.
I well remember how this explanation resonated within me and served to soothe my broken spirit.
I once saw a slogan that stated “Before you ask God for that which you are lacking, thank him for what you have”.
In light of the above, it can be said that to thank Hashem for what we don’t have is as important as thanking him for what we have. After all, it is Hashem who decrees what our lot shall be and in his infinite wisdom, he knows what is best for us.
The Rosh Yeshiva in Passaic, NJ, Rav Meir Stern once told me that the words “thank you” is similar to the words “think you”.
When someone does us a good turn, we are often in a position where we cannot specifically repay that person in kind. Therefore, to show our gratitude, we express our thanks or “thinks” as it were, to indicate to that person, that with our mind, spirit and heart, we recognize the good they have done for us and are appreciative for it.
Expressing our gratitude for all that Hashem bestows upon us, or withholds from us, is then a catalyst for personal growth.