Then we your people, the sheep of your pasture,
will praise you forever;
from generation to generation
we will proclaim your praise. — Psalm 79:13
In so much of the psalms, the focus is on needing a miracle, praying for miracles, and receiving them. However, this week, I would like to focus on another aspect of receiving miracles in our lives: What happens after we receive them? Do we forget the miracles and move on? Or do we remember them and act accordingly?
I recently read a story about an old man who once a week would walk near an abandoned pier on the seashore with a bucket filled with shrimp to feed the seagulls. Captain Eddie Rickenbacker did this until his death in 1973. The reason? In 1942 during World War II, Rickenbacker was on an important mission when his airplane got lost and ran out of fuel, forcing the captain and his crew to ditch their plane in the sea. For nearly a month, the men battled the elements, but the worst of their tribulations was the lack of food. After eight days at sea, the men were out of food.
Years later, the captain would recall how on one Sunday afternoon, after the men had prayed for salvation and sang hymns of praise, he covered his face with his hat and began to drift off to sleep. Suddenly, something fell on his head. It turned out to be a seagull, hundreds of miles from its natural habitat. The men were able to catch the seagull and eat it. They used its intestines to catch fish, which they survived on until they were rescued. That one seagull that fell from the sky like manna in the desert saved Rickenbacker and his crew. And he never forgot it.
That’s why the captain fed seagulls every week until his death. By doing so, he was expressing gratitude for the miracle that he had received so very long ago. Psalm 79 concludes: “Then we your people, the sheep of your pasture, will praise you forever; from generation to generation we will proclaim your praise.” When we receive a miracle in our lives, we can’t simply move on like nothing happened. We must remember and express our gratitude, praising God on our own and before others.
However, Captain Rickenbacker also teaches us that there is more than one way to express gratitude. One way is with our mouths, but another is with our actions. When we give back to God’s purposes in honor of the miracles that He has done for us, we not only bring glory to His name, but contribute to His Kingdom as well.
All of us have received at least one miracle in our lives —the miracle of life itself. How might we express our thanks today?
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With prayers for shalom, peace,
Rabbi Yechiel Eckstein
Founder and President