Passing on Our Gratitude
Yael Eckstein | December 12, 2022
But show kindness to the sons of Barzillai of Gilead and let them be among those who eat at your table. They stood by me when I fled from your brother Absalom. — 1 Kings 2:7
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.
Have you ever wondered where the name “Jew” comes from? The simple explanation is that 2,000 years ago, the kingdom of Israel was split. Ten of the 12 tribes made up “Israel,” while the tribes of Judah and Benjamin became “Judea.” When Judea was exiled (long after Israel was lost), the people coming from Judea — Judeans — were simply called “Jews.”
There is also a spiritual reason why, of all the tribes, the name Judah became the name of the entire nation. Let’s look back at the birth of Judah. We read, “She conceived again, and when she gave birth to a son she said, ‘This time I will praise the LORD.’ So she named him Judah” (Genesis 29:35).
Judah’s mother, Leah, chose the name because Judah is from the Hebrew root hoda’a — translated here as “praise,” but actually meaning “thanks.” The modern Hebrew word for “thank you” is todah, from the same root.
By calling ourselves “Jews” after Judah, we acknowledge that at the core of Judaism is the quality of gratitude. To be a Jew literally means to be a person of gratitude — constantly aware and thankful for the blessings in our lives.
Passing on Our Gratitude
In 1 Kings chapter 2, David was on his deathbed, passing down his final words to his son. Among the directions that David shared with his son Solomon was this command: “But show kindness to the sons of Barzillai of Gilead and let them be among those who eat at your table. They stood by me when I fled from your brother Absalom.”
When David experienced perhaps the most excruciating episode of his life — a rebellion against him led by his very own son, Absalom — Barzillai stood by his side. Many of David’s “friends” and “followers” deserted him, but Barzillai, a wealthy, yet elderly man, loyally stood by the side of his king and provided for his needs.
As one of David’s last lessons to his son, David taught Solomon about the importance of everlasting gratitude. Even the descendants of Barzillai were to be welcomed guests at the king’s table for years to come.
King David is teaching us the importance of remembering the people who have helped us in our lives and passing on our gratitude. The people who have helped us in our lives must always have a place at our table — figuratively and literally.
Take a moment today to express your gratitude to some of those people who have helped you in the past. When we get in the habit of remembering and feeling grateful for the people in our lives, then we will be one step closer to being constantly thankful to God.