Where’s My Thank-You?

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The Torah commands us to know that Hashem runs the world: There is nothing beside Him (Devarim 4:35). The Ramban at the end of Parashat Bo writes that the entire purpose of Creation was for us to realize that Hashem is our Gd and to thank Him for creating us. The Ibn Ezra writes that the purpose of the mitzvot is to bring us to love Hashem and to cling to Him. The more we have Hashem on our mind, loving and thanking Him, the better we are accomplishing our job in This World.

Hashem calls us His children. A young child thinks about his parents all the time; he needs them for everything. This is how we are supposed to feel about Hashem. We should constantly have Him on our minds, because we need Him for everything, as well.

But if the purpose of life is to recognize Hashem, what about the millions of unaffiliated Jews who were never taught about Him? How will they fulfill their purpose?

I saw a parable quoted in Emunah Sheleimah that explains this.

After Jacob was fired from his job, he was a broken man. He didn’t know how he would support himself, and he couldn’t sleep at night.

One morning, after bringing his newspaper inside, he discovered two $100 bills tucked between two pages. At first he thought they were counterfeit, but then he examined them in the sunlight and realized they were real. From that day on, he found two $100 bills inside his newspaper every single day (except Shabbat), It was like the mahn!

One morning, by accident, his neighbor switched newspapers with him. When he asked for his paper back, the neighbor told him that his son already ripped most of it. He offered Jacob to keep his intact paper, but Jacob was adamant. He went to gather the shredded paper and found his $200.

This went on for four years. His neighbors could not understand how he was surviving without a job. It looked like he was always on vacation, enjoying life, yet still managing to pay his bills.

One day, when Jacob went out to get his newspaper, a man was standing on the lawn, foot firmly planted on the paper. Jacob was about to yell at him, but the man spoke first. “Where is my thank-you?” he asked.

“What?” Jacob responded in confusion.

“I have been supporting you for four years, and not once did you come to say, Thank you!” the man complained.

“Oh, I’m sorry!” Jacob replied. “I never saw you. I didn’t even know you existed.”

“That’s exactly what I’m talking about,” said the man. “For four years, you have been eating my bread, drinking my water, and you had no idea that I even exist? Not once did you bother to wake up early to see who is placing money in the newspaper?”

The same is true in our lives. Hashem gives and gives and gives. If a person doesn’t stop to think about his blessings or ask where they are coming from, he could miss Hashem. But, if a person honestly thinks about all the times he’s been helped and the myriads of blessings he has in his life, he doesn’t even need to be taught about Hashem. He will automatically recognize Him and run to say, Thank You.

Hashem does not need our recognition and gratitude. Rather, as the Sefer HaChinuch writes regarding the mitzvah of bikurim, when we recognize what Hashem gives us, it opens gates for more blessing. All Hashem wants to do is give us and give us again.