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Tzav(Leviticus 6-8)

Showing Appreciation


OVERVIEW

This week's Torah portion talks about thanksgiving, and it has nothing to do with turkey, or pilgrims. It is the thanksgiving offering that the Jewish people would bring to the Tabernacle as an expression of appreciation to God for the good things He did for them.

Being able to feel and express gratitude -- toward God and toward other people -- is one of the most important keys to living a happy life. Each of us has so much good in his life to be grateful for; we only need to learn how to see it. The Torah is teaching us to take the effort to focus on the good in one's life, and to feel the joy that this appreciation brings.

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STORY

In our story, we meet a boy who celebrates 'Thanksgiving' every day of the year.

"A BITE OUT OF LIFE"

      "What are you staring at?" Jeff asked, as noticed saw his friend Adam gazing intently into his lunch-box.

      Adam looked up, and blushed. "Oh, nothing," he said, trying to brush the question off.

      "C'mon. I've been watching you," Jeff said. You've had your head in that lunch box for almost a minute. Do you have a new Palm computer in there that you've been holding out on me, or something?"

      Adam laughed. "Ok, if you really must know, I was just thinking about how grateful I am for this lunch. It's something I started doing before I eat lately, and it really makes me appreciate what I have."

      Jeff leaned over and peered into his buddy's lunch-box. He wanted to see what special treat he had in there that was worth sitting and drooling over. But all he saw was his friend's regular fare of a sandwich, a bag of chips, and a box of pineapple juice.

      It looked fine enough, he thought, but what was all the fuss about?

      "I don't get it," Jeff said. "You mean you're grateful to your mom for packing the lunch?"

      "For sure I am," answered Adam. "She's really busy, but always manages to make me a nice lunch. But it's much more than that. I'm thinking about the thousands of people all over the world, who all got together to make my lunch happen."

      Jeff took a good look at Adam and thought that maybe his friend had gone off the deep end. "Look, maybe you can tell me that you're grateful to your mom and dad for buying the stuff, but that's the end of it."

      "Well what about being grateful to the people in the store who sold my parents the food? If they hadn't brought all the food together, where would we ever get it? The nearest farm is about 200 miles away! Speaking of which, how do you think all that food got to the store? I'm grateful to the truck drivers who drove it all the way, probably in the middle of the night."

      Jeff nodded. He really hadn't thought of that. But Adam wasn't finished. He was really on a roll.

      Plus," he went on, "do you think this sandwich just grew on a tree? The bread is made out of wheat. People had to plant the wheat. And water it, and cut it, grind it into flour, make the dough, bake it and slice it. That's gotta be a few hundred people just there. Then you have the cheese inside the sandwich. It came from a cow, which had to be raised and fed, milked, and cleaned up after. I'm grateful to the people who did all that. I would hate to have had to go through all that work myself for a piece of cheese."

      By now, Jeff was starting to get into it, too. "Don't forget the pineapple juice!" he added. "I'll bet someone had to fly it in all the way from Hawaii, or something!"

      "That's right!" Adam said. "And we haven't even begun to talk about the thousands of people involved in building the airplane. Not to mention their parents who raised them. And the most important thing of all, feeling grateful to God, for the teeth to chew the food, the hands to hold it, the stomach to digest it and for making all of this happen! We could go on forever."

      The boys felt their heads spinning. "Unbelievable!" said Jeff. "Just unbelievable."

      "Now you see why my head was stuck in my lunch-box?" Adam asked. "But we better start eating. The bell's going to ring soon."

      Jeff took out his own lunch and looked it over with wonder. He never enjoyed or appreciated his food as much as he did that day. One thing he was certainly grateful for was that he had met up with his friend, and gotten a lesson in gratitude that he hoped he would never forget.

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QUESTIONS

Ages 3-5

Q. How would a person feel about something like lunch, if he didn't stop and try to appreciate it?
A. He could feel like it was nothing special, and he had no one to feel grateful towards.

Q. How would he feel differently after looking at it Adam's way?
A. He would really come to see how so many people were involved in helping him get his lunch, and would feel tons of gratitude to them and to God.

 

Ages 6-9

Q. What did Jeff discover from his conversation with Adam?
A. He came to realize that a simple thing like a box lunch wasn't really simple at all. Literally, thousands, if not millions of people were someway or another involved with bringing the food to his table. This is true with just about everything we have. God sets the whole world in motion to bring us good, and if we think about it, we'll become filled with gratitude.

Q. How can we come to appreciate life more?
A. An important start is to do like the boys in the story, and focus on all the good things coming our way. Try to really stop and feel appreciation for them. A great tool is to try to write down five different things each day we feel grateful for. As our list grows, so will our sense of joy. God does so many good things for us, all we have to do is open our eyes and see.

 

Ages 10 and Up

Q. After reading this story, how can we better understand the statement of our sages that we should each feel as if the world was created just for us?
A. It's not hard to do, after realizing the international, multigenerational, perfectly coordinated effort that went into just bringing one boy his lunch! Really, God has the super-human wisdom to set the world up in such a way that nearly everything that goes on somehow is involved in bringing us the things we need. This is even more so in a spiritual sense, as everything we experience in life is custom tailored to give us the tools and teach us the lessons we need to grow into more spiritual people.

Q. Do we really have to be grateful to people who help us without realizing it?
A. Certainly an intentional act of kindness deserves more of our gratitude, but even those who help us unintentionally deserve our thanks. Not only will this help others to feel good, but it will build up our 'gratitude muscles' which is an important spiritual goal, and a sure path to increased happiness. Most of all, we can and should always feel grateful to God, who surely was involved in setting up the world in a way we would receive the help that we needed, even if the helpers themselves remained unaware of what they were doing.

Q. How can we come to appreciate life more?
A. An important start is to do like the boys in the story, and focus on all the good things coming our way. Try to really stop and feel appreciation for them. A great tool is to try to write down five different things each day we feel grateful for. As our list grows, so will our sense of joy. God does so many good things for us, all we have to do is open our eyes and see.

 

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Published: March 15, 2003

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Visitor Comments: 1

(1) Nancy Zeldin, January 24, 2005 12:00 AM

Great

Please send more examples of these portions - My daughter & I love this site!

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