Cultivating Gratitude

Emor By :  Charlie Schwartz Posted On May 12, 2012 / 5772 | Midrash: Between the Lines

סימן יד
וכי תזבחו זבח תודה. רבי פנחס ורבי לוי ורבי יוחנן אמר בשם רבי מנחם דגליל, לעתיד לבא, כל הקרבנות כולן בטלין, וקרבן תודה אינו בטל לעולם. כל ההודיות בטלין, והודיית תודה אינה בטלה לעולם, הדא הוא דכתיב, קול ששון וקול שמחה, קול חתן וקול כלה, קול אומרים הודו את ה’ צבאות. כי טוב ה’ כי לעולם חסדו, מביאים תודה בית ה’ (ירמ’ לג יא), זה קרבן תודה. וכן דוד אמר, עלי אלהים נדריך, אשלם תודות לך (תהלי’ נו יג). תודה אין כתיב כאן, אלא תודות, ההודיה וקרבן תודה

Va-yikra Rabbah Parashat Emor Section 14
“When you sacrifice a Thanksgiving offering to the Lord, sacrifice it so that it may be acceptable in your favor” (Lev. 22:29). Rabbi Pinchas, Rabbi Levi and Rabbi Yochanan said in the name of Rabbi Menachem of the Galilee, “In future times, the observance of the sacrifices will be nullified, with the exception of the Thanksgiving offering which will never be nullified. The offering of thanksgiving will never be nullified as it is written, ‘The voice of joy and the voice of gladness, the voice of the bridegroom and the bride, the voice of them that say, “Give thanks to the Lord of hosts, for God’s mercy endures forever,” even of them that bring offerings of thanksgiving into the house of the Lord’ (Jer. 33:11). This is the Thanksgiving offering.”

According to the rabbinic imagination described in this midrash, the messianic era will not be accompanied by a full return of the Temple service and various sacrifices described in this week’s parashah. Rather, in the opinion of Rabbi Menachem of the Galilee, in the messianic era no act of sacrifice will be practiced, save the thanksgiving offering. This vision of a future, idealized religious practice is a little surprising. One could imagine a vision of future practice that includes all of the sacrificial offerings. The rabbis, after all, wrote this midrash in exile while longing for a rebuilt Jerusalem and Temple. Why not, then, describe a future in which all of the sacrifices are reinstated? Alternatively, the rabbis could have created a vision for religious expression totally devoid of the need for worship and offerings. Instead of either of these alternatives, in this midrash, the only sacrifice maintained in future times is one that is offered voluntarily to God in gratitude for any reason, from being delivered from danger to experiencing success in business.

The cultivation of gratitude in this world can be a difficult process. It is a challenge to step out of the flow of daily life with all of its noise and distraction. It can be difficult to merely say the words thank you—thank you for the blessings, whether abundant or few, that surround us; thank you to our loved ones for the fact that we are alive in a world filled with so much potential. To live life in gratitude is a challenge, but the importance of this challenge is what this midrash stresses. It is not our faults and failures that will live on and be present in some future time; rather, it is the love and appreciation we bring into the world that goes on and will always be present, whether in the form of sacrifice, prayer, or the relationships we build with each other and God.