Project Genesis

Reward and Punishment

Why "Bad" Things Happen

Always Be Thankful

Question: How does one in good conscience give thanks for the good fortune and bounty of one’s life if they were gained historically through the pain suffering and misfortune of others?

Answer: Thanks for asking this great question.

We live on the heels of the history of others. In some societies that history is strong and proud and in others’ it is harsh and cruel. When thinking about American history there is a real mixture of pride and sorrow. We feel sorrow about those whom were enslaved, those whose land was taken away, those who were removed from their property so others could enjoy it and much more that no American should be proud of.

Today, however, we have two choices. We can either give thanks for the opportunities that we have in front of us or we can sulk in regret for history that we have and had no control over. In a land where not too long ago African Americans were treated like animals today the leader will come from them. In a land where Indians were once driven from their lands today we help to protect people worldwide from genocide. We cannot look at the past and judge ourselves. We must, in my view, look toward the future and decide not to make the same mistakes again.

With all that said, your question was about giving thanks. The Torah teaches us that when we are satisfied after a meal we must say thank you to Our Creator. It does not say we should show gratitude only if we enjoyed the food. When we wake up in the morning a Jew traditionally says blessings ranging from being thankful for clothing to freedom to health. This blessing is for every Jew, even one who is poor or is not in the best health. Why? Because we are praying for our potential, not what we have been until now. We know that G-d’s potential is infinite and our potential is also great. Therefore, we look toward the future with hope and happiness, not gloom and dread.

I hope this helps. Please let me know if I can help in any other way.

Be Well,
Rabbi Litt

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