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Cultivating Gratitude

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If you bring a grain offering baked in an oven, it is to consist of the finest flour . . . If your grain offering is prepared on a griddle, it is to be made of the finest flour mixed with oil, and without yeast . . . If your grain offering is cooked in a pan, it is to be made of the finest flour and some olive oil. — Leviticus 2:4–7

The Torah portion for this week is Vayikra, which means “and He called,” from Leviticus 1:1–5:26, and the Haftorah is from Isaiah 43:21–44:23.

It has been said that the quality of our gratitude determines the quality of our lives. In other words, the more we express thankfulness, the happier we are and the more we are blessed.

If that’s the case and gratitude is such an important ingredient in our lives, why do so many people leave it out? It’s partially due to the fast pace of our lives today, coupled with all the distractions of our technology. The truth is if we want to have quality gratitude, we have to take the time to cultivate it. In this week’s Torah reading we find a recipe for gratitude – one that helps us see the manifold blessings in our lives, so that, in turn, we may lead more blessed lives.

In describing the meal offering, which is a voluntary sacrifice, the Torah describes it prepared three different ways: baked in an oven, prepared on a griddle, and cooked in a pan. The Jewish sages explain that each corresponds to three different types of gratitude.

The offering baked in the oven represents our “daily bread” – the basic necessities for living. The offering prepared on a griddle is associated with a sweet cake and represents the luxuries that sweeten our lives. Finally, the offering made in a pan represents dishes cooked for special occasions — the momentous, joyful occasions in our lives that go beyond our daily needs and gifts. In mentioning these three types of offerings, Scripture is teaching us that we have to cultivate gratitude in all these areas.

There was once a sailor who was lost at sea for days. When he was finally rescued, he was asked what he had learned from his experience. The sailor said, “If someone has food to eat and water to drink, they need not ever complain about anything!” If we have food and water, our basic daily needs have already been met by our generous God. Let us say, “Thanks!”

I recently read these statistics: “If you have food in the refrigerator, clothes on your back, a roof overhead and a place to sleep . . . you are richer than 75 percent of this world. If you have money in the bank, in your wallet, and spare change in a dish someplace . . . you are among the top eight percent of the world’s wealthy.” How many luxuries do we have that we so often take for granted? Let us consider our gifts and say, “Thanks!”

Now for those special occasions in our lives: Marriages, births, a new job, a promotion, a goal met, an honor received . . . and so many more. Let us take the time to savor and appreciate them all, and say “Thanks.”

Let us always remember to express our gratitude in whatever situation we may find ourselves.

Cultivating Gratitude,

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