Idols are needy (and moody), but G^d is perfect and lacks nothing. He doesn’t need our gratefulness, our prayers, or us shedding tears.
If you see yourself as more or less perfect, it may come as a shock that it is you who needs gratitude, saying prayers, and shedding tears.
Without enough gratefulness, we’re insufferably arrogant and egocentric.
So, you’re an atheist, but could you not see and believe in good fortune?
So, you worked for it, so you deserve it? You can’t see how your good results are also brought forth by the work of many others: people who went before us, who taught you, who enabled you, etc.? You did not create the chair, the ADSL cable, or the electricity you used to do the work.
Oh, you paid for it? That means you should receive those things, but that doesn’t exempt you from expressing your gratefulness. They are not your slaves. Even if they were, they made an effort to get you what you wanted.
Ah, everyone indominably deserves to be treated with dignity, etc. That’s true, but when we get what we deserve, we can’t say: Thank you?
Traditional Jews stand on specially crediting G^d’s Invisible Hand behind all the good we receive. But, that’s to save our character, not for G^d.
We got Life without doing anything for it. We received air, water, food, and protection before we could do more than cry, smile, and poop. Our parents, at times, thought to kill us but didn’t. Shouldn’t we be thankful?
So, mindlessly quickly sort of saying a traditional Blessing doesn’t cut it.
Rabbi Cardozo once quipped that with so many miracles around, G^d needs to strengthen Atheists every day so that they may stay secular. But seriously, I think it’s not G^d but the rabbis. As Reb Shlomo Carlebach said to clarify how seculars are not to blame: If the restaurant is good, people will eat there. Apparently, we, the religious, do something wrong if they stay away. Check these two great writings by two phenomenal rabbis for Independence Day 2023, and you see, they never discuss that of course we should be grateful to live in a Jewish State. Every secularist can feel it, but our greatest rabbis cannot write it? In fact, Rabbi Aryeh Hirsch, with Rabbi Tzvi Yehudah Kook whom he quotes from 1964, calls upon the religious to be happy about Israel’s independence. (But Rabbi Kook faults the secular for the lack of joy!) In my synagogue, we sang a couple of Psalms with the word Simcha (joy) in them, but they were sung as if some funeral eulogy.
The Jewish Festivals are a celebration of liberation. Jewish Passover is the birth of the Nation. But actually, its seventh day is the climax, when we narrowly escape through the Sea of Reeds. Or better, perhaps, culminating six weeks later still at Pentecost. Chanukah is the same thing, liberation from assimilation and occupation. Purim too celebrates miraculous rescue from genocide. Israeli’s Independence Day is no less than all of the above. The Ten Days of Repentance, culminating in Yom Kippur, also should be celebrated as National salvation. Yet, jubilant song is inappropriate while our lives hang in the balance, so we fully celebrate at the ensuing Festival days. During the Three Pilgrimage Feasts, joy is Biblically obligated. Yet, often, rituals take too big a place. Happiness should not be a side dish.
In fact, every day, happiness is a Biblical obligation (Deuteronomy 28:47).
Say, you drop a plate, and someone dives to catch it before it shatters but fails, would you thank him? Of course. So, thankfulness is not only to express gratitude when we get success or a Yes but also, when things go wrong, or we’re told No. No one is obligated to make us feel comfortable.
And we’d treat Mother Earth with more respect. Shabbat was Earth Day.
Yes, some people are chronically too grateful. They can’t remember they are nothing less than anyone else and, therefore also, should receive what they need. They are allowed to say: Everyone suffers if I don’t accept too.
Like the Sages say: Everyone should have a piece of paper in each pocket. One should read: For me, the world was created. The other: I’m nothing.
Life is not giving and taking. It is giving and receiving and saying thank you.
A good marriage is not that both partners take and take because it will never be enough. It’s also not that only one gives and the other receives. The best relationship is that both give and if needed, humbly inform the other of what they lack. As it says in the Sayings of the Founding Parents 1:14: A. If I’m not for myself, who should be? B. If I’m for me, what is the value of my life? C. And if not now, when? A and B contradict. B is often translated with the word only in it, but that’s not what it says. One solution is: A is when we are single, and B covers when we are partnered.
Some people are chronically ungrateful as they really think they aren’t receiving enough. Little secret: For them, it will never be enough. Those who grumpily are for more generosity in the world should give more.
Per definition, activists are displeased by the state of the world/humanity. Yet, the best activists spread hope and optimism, rather than anger and sadness. It’s not upsetting things need perfecting. G^d left us a worthy job.
However, don’t be like the friendly middle-class person who says: Thank you to the teller as if they are his servant. Notice that they are people too and, like a fellow working-class person, say: Have a nice day.