Cultivate the Habit of Gratitude

Yael Eckstein  |  December 1, 2022

Yael and grateful elderyly woman

The LORD said to Moses, “Tell Aaron, ‘Take your staff and stretch out your hand over the waters of Egypt—over the streams and canals, over the ponds and all the reservoirs—and they will turn to blood.’ Blood will be everywhere in Egypt, even in vessels of wood and stone.” — Exodus 7:19

Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel, a renowned Jewish theologian, once said, “It is gratefulness which makes the soul great.” Please enjoy these devotions focused on gratitude during this season when families gather to give thanks.

I recently took a taxi with my son Liam. At the end of the ride, as I finished paying and we were getting out the car, I thanked the driver with a smile. After he drove off, Liam turned to me. “Ima, why did you thank him? He was just doing his job. And he got paid.”

It was a good question, and it reminded me of words of wisdom from the great Jewish sages of the Talmud: “The wine is the host’s, but thanks go to the waiter.”

In other words, even though the waiter is only doing his job and he doesn’t even own the wine he is serving, we must still thank him. But why? Doesn’t Liam have a point?

If we shouldn’t be thanking the waiter or the cab driver, we can just as easily rationalize not thanking almost anyone. For example, why should a spouse who works hard all day thank their partner for preparing dinner? Aren’t they both doing their part in the partnership of caring for the family?

Come to think of it, why should I even thank someone who gives charity? The money isn’t really theirs anyway. They’re just like the waiter serving the wine. It all belongs to God, right?

Cultivate the Habit of Gratitude

But this thinking is wrong and dangerous. We read in Exodus, “The Lord said to Moses, ‘Tell Aaron, “Take your staff and stretch out your hand over the waters of Egypt—over the streams and canals, over the ponds and all the reservoirs—and they will turn to blood.” Blood will be everywhere in Egypt, even in vessels of wood and stone.’”

In Egypt, when the time came for the first plague, God told Moses to tell Aaron to turn the water to blood. The Jewish sages explain that Moses could not do it himself because he was saved by the Nile when his mother put him in a basket in the river. God did not want Moses to undermine his gratitude to the Nile even though the Nile has no feelings.

So if God deemed it important to give thanks to something that was inanimate, how much more do the people we live and work with deserve our thanks and gratitude!

Like every other trait, we must cultivate habits of gratitude. If we don’t, we will find ourselves living in a world of selfishness. Our relationships with our friends and family will suffer, and ultimately, we will come to the point where we stop thanking God.

We must give thanks for any kindness done to us because our own spiritual wellbeing depends on it.

Your Turn:

Make it a point to say thank you to people who are “just doing their job.” Notice how this habit changes your perspective and enriches the lives of everyone around you.

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