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The Greatest Gift of All

Do not gloat over me, my enemy!
    Though I have fallen, I will rise.
Though I sit in darkness,
    LORD will be my light.
— Micah 7:8

A story is told about an 18th-century rabbi who paused in the middle of prayers to ask a question about the words he was reciting. As the rabbi prayed: "I thank You God for all of the kindness that you have done with me and for all the kindness that you will do with me in the future," he was suddenly puzzled. "Why do I have to thank God in advance for kindness that will only be shown to me in the future? Why not wait and then thank God when those incidents of kindness occur?"

After thinking about it for a few moments, the rabbi answered his own question. He explained: "It may be that when God shows me kindness in the future, I won’t recognize that what He is doing is indeed good for me. It may appear in a form that I perceive as distressful and I may be anything but grateful then."

The rabbi began to cry and said, "How tragic it is to be so limited in understanding. Just think! God could be doing something amazing for me and I may not even recognize it as such and may even be resentful when I should be grateful!"

According to the rabbi, this is why we must thank God for all His kindness even before it occurs. So many times in life, God extends kindness to us in the form of challenges and difficulties. It can be difficult for us to properly identify and be grateful for all God’s goodness.

The prophet Micah alludes to this teaching as he wrote, "Though I have fallen, I will rise." The Jewish sages explain that this verse means, "Because I have fallen, I will rise. Had I not fallen, I would not have risen." In other words, there are some gifts that can only be received through adversity. Sometimes, we must experience a setback so that we can come back stronger, greater, and better than ever before. It is an act of kindness on God’s part to give us the challenges that lead to our greatest successes – but it takes a willingness and determination to see them as such.

Like the prayer which caused the rabbi to ask his question, let’s remember to thank God for all the good that He has done for us in the past and the present, but also let us be thankful for those things that He will do for us in the future — whether we recognize His benevolence or not. At the same time, let us be vigilant and recognize God’s goodness even when His kindness comes clothed in adversity. Often, these are the greatest gifts of all.

With prayers for shalom, peace,

Rabbi Yechiel Eckstein
Founder and President

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