Rabbi Shaya's Thoughts

Three Times to Say Thank You

It is important to recognize and give thanks to someone, and especially to G-d, for the good that is bestowed upon us. However, the question is, what steps are to be taken?

In this week’s Torah portion, our first patriarch, Avraham, is introduced to us. In this week alone, we see how he gives thanks to G-d three times. None of the three times occurs just after an incident—it is much more than that; it takes us to a higher level, toward a deeper relationship with G-d.

The first step in building our relationship with G-d is to recognize that we want to have a connection. So step one is to make the commitment.

 At this point we might not know exactly what that may entail. What are the conditions? We don’t know how to make it happen, and therefore although we want to do what is right, there is a good chance that we will mess up. Once we find that we made a mistake, however, we regret our faults and we rectify it. We straighten out our life and we start to grow spiritually, we mature, and we come closer to G-d. This is step two.

And there is yet a higher level of closeness that is not meant to rectify anything (step three). It is not meant to make up for anything that we may have done wrong—it is giving thanks purely out of love – “just because” – when you just want to come close to G-d.

These three steps are repeated in our own lives in many different ways: in our lives as we grow up and in our relationships with our parents, siblings, spouses, or friends. Sometimes it can take years for us to move from one step to the next and sometimes we can go from one to the next in just a few moments.

The lesson for us is to take note at each of these points in our life, whether we are just starting out in a relationship, or if we messed up, or, even if it safe and secure, to take a moment to reflect and to say thank you.




Carry The Light

One biblical story that all children grow up with is “Noah’s Ark.” Many children’s artists and authors have illustrated and written books about it, and with today’s social media, the memes don’t stop floating around the web. Children and adults alike just love animals, especially when they are depicted as living together in harmony.

Interestingly enough, the images generally follow the dimensions outlined in the Torah, which in and of itself is interesting. G-d gives us all the details—how long the Ark should be, its width and its height, and even that it should have a pitched roof!

Then the Torah gets even more specific, describing where to place a door, which is being very practical. However the next piece of advice is not so simple. G-d tells Noach to place a tzohar in the Ark. 

What does tzohar mean? It can be explained in two ways—either a window or a precious stone, which shines and will give off light. But here is where the problem lies with both of these explanations: neither of them will bring enough light into the Ark to illuminate all three floors of the Ark! And even if either could illuminate all three of the floors, during the storm (which raged the first forty days that they were in the Ark) the sun did not shine, so how would they bring in light? One window/stone wouldn’t be enough. In addition, there was more than one human being in the Ark, plus all the animals, all of whom had to see what was going on! Can you imagine the chaos that would go on in all the darkness? How could one window/stone do the job?

Logic tells us that Noach built windows and hung lanterns throughout the Ark. Perhaps he even hung precious stones to illuminate the Ark, even without the direct command from G-d. 

This begs the question—if Noach had the sense to do so on his own, why did G-d have to command him to add “one tzohar” to the Ark?

We must say that G-d had a deeper reason for this odd command.

G-d was telling Noach that although the world outside is dark, he must figure out how to bring the "light" from outside in, and how to share the "light" from inside with the outside world.

Look what the outside world can give to you and what you can contribute to the outside world.

No matter how special you may be, there is still some kind of lesson that you can take from others.

You may meet a disagreeable person, yet you can still look for a way to learn a positive lesson from them. This doesn’t mean that you have to agree with them; you must only recognize that they, too, are a source of light. The same thing is true the other way around. It is imperative for each of us to find a way to share what we know and what we have with others, so that they can understand and appreciate what it is that we cherish so much. 

Like the Jewish Federation motto “Share the Light,” or the classic Chasidic saying, “Become a Lamplighter,” shine so that others can shine as well.

Shabbat Shalom

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