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Would you rather get what you want or want what you get?

Photo by Sean Oulashin on Unsplash: https://unsplash.com/photos/KMn4VEeEPR8

Gratitude for what you already have is the key to all abundance.

When a fellow woke up from a three-day coma in the hospital, he cried when he saw the medical bill for $15,000. Confused, his wife tried to calm him down, assuring him that they could afford to pay it. “These aren’t tears of fear, they’re tears of gratitude,” he explained. “If 72 hours of breathing oxygen costs $15,000, then each minute of air costs around $3.50. I am moved to tears as I think of my gratitude to G-d that I have overlooked for all the air He has freely given me all the years of my life!”

As human beings, we struggle with a peculiar malady known as “broken tile syndrome.” When observing a ceiling, our attention will always be drawn to the single broken tile, overlooking the 99 tiles that are perfect. This negativity bias can easily ruin a perfect day with a single foul encounter or even a negative text message.

This is why we Jews spend so much time acknowledging our Creator, countless times each day. Not only do we pray three times a day, but we actually are supposed to recite at least 100 blessings every single day. We learn about the affirmations of gratitude that Jewish farmers would recite when they would gratefully bring their First Fruits as a gift to G-d, in the Holy Temple. There’s even a blessing that we’re supposed to recite each time we emerge from the bathroom!

In a sermon delivered on Shabbos, November 29, 1986, the Rebbe explains that the purpose of these blessings is not so that G-d should know how much we appreciate Him, but rather so that we should know how much He appreciates us! When it dawns upon us how many gifts G-d continuously showers upon us—from the breath that we breathe to the food we eat and from the glorious sunshine in which we bask to the people in whose love we thrive—we are filled with gratitude and joy for the undeserved bounty that constantly flows our way.

As the father of eleven children, I marvel each time my wife gives birth to a healthy child. Millions, nay billions of details have to work together in perfect synchronicity to allow a healthy child to be born—indeed, the miracle of a healthy child never gets old.

Eckart Tolle says that gratitude is an essential part of being present. When you go deeply into the present, gratitude arises spontaneously. Sadly, I know many people who seem to have it all, yet are miserable. One could be living in Paradise, and be like Adam who complained to G-d for creating his wife, or you could be living in Auschwitz and praising G-d each morning for giving you another day of life. Your attitude affects not only your mood, it actually impacts your outcome.

Gratitude is a choice, not a result. It’s not joy that makes us grateful; it’s gratitude that makes us joyful. What we focus on magnifies—what we choose to focus on becomes our reality.

Two Biblical women had lengthy struggles with infertility, with two profoundly different outcomes. When Rachel eventually gave birth to her son, she named him “Joseph,” which means “more,” expressive of her desire for another child. When Chana gave birth to her son, Samuel, she immediately sang a song of gratitude and praise to G-d. Sadly, Rachel died soon after, during the birth of her second son, Benjamin, while Chana proceeded to give birth to six more sons. When we focus on joy, the blessings flow. Indeed, when the farmer graciously thanks G-d for the First Fruits, the Torah promises him that he will merit another year of bounty (Devarim 26:16 and Rashi there).

When someone wrote to the Rebbe complaining bitterly about his life, the Rebbe’s incredible response (Igros Kodesh vol. 12 p. 270) was that it was his own negative attitude that was hindering his success! His choice to overlook the great blessings of marriage and children that G-d had showered upon him was repelling his ability to experience more abundance in his life. An attitude of gratitude is the key to prosperity.

… In answer to your letter . . . in which you write of the current state of your affairs, adding that “all my life, no good has befallen me” . . . It seems that you are unaware of the contradiction in your letter.

For a man whom the Creator has provided his partner in life, and has blessed them with children, to say that, “all my life, good has eluded me,” is ingratitude in a most shocking manner…

Hundreds and thousands of people who pray every day to be blessed with children, and would give all that they have for a single son or daughter, have yet to merit it (may G-d bless them with the speedy fulfillment of their heart’s desires), while you, who received this blessing (seemingly without an overabundance of praying for it) do not recognize what a treasure and joy this is, writing as you do in your letter…

My point is that perhaps the reason for your weak health and your difficulties in earning a living is your utter failure to appreciate G-d’s blessing to you in a far more basic matter than perfect health and abundant sustenance—the blessing of sons and daughters who follow the ways of G-d. When one does not recognize the explicit good bestowed from Above, particularly when one’s lack of recognition is so extreme that it results in statements such as you express in your letter, is it any wonder that blessings are not forthcoming from Above in other matters?”

This principle is fundamental to the Jewish approach in how G-d chooses to operate: What you give is what you get, and you’ve got to be careful what you pray for.

When we’re thankful for what we have, we’ll end up having more; When we focus on what we lack, we’ll never have enough. Emphasizing the light attracts even more light; obsessing over darkness keeps us in the dark. No one likes a grouch. When G-d sees us thanking Him for what we have, He gets inspired to give us even more!

With deep sensitivity, the Rebbe encouraged the letter-writer to force himself to be happy, and explained that this was for his own good. Serving Hashem with overflowing joy will immediately initiate a reciprocal response from Heaven that will cause your blessings to overflow in all matters dear to you. Thus the Rebbe concludes his letter:

“My hope is that these few lines will suffice to open your eyes to see your situation in its true light. And when you begin to serve G-d with true and inner joy, surely G-d will increase His blessings also regarding health and sustenance…”

Don’t be upset when there’s a detour on the way to your destiny. Keep your spirits up and that’s what will make it all work out!

_______________________
Rabbi Dovid Vigler
Chabad of Palm Beach Gardens

6100 PGA Blvd, Palm Beach Gardens, FL 33418
JewishGardens.com | 561.624.2223

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About the Author
Raised in South Africa and educated in some of the finest Yeshivas in Israel, England, New York, and Australia, Rabbi Dovid Vigler strives to share the beauty and depth of Judaism in a clear, conversational, and down-to-earth manner. Whether in private counseling, relatable sermons, weekly email broadcasts, or in his popular Torah classes on social media, he reaches out to every Jew with unconditional love, patience, and compassion. His inspirational talks and uplifting messages can be found on YouTube.com/JewishGardens and Facebook.com/JewishGardens
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