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Thank You HaShem

By Rabbi Zalman A. Grossbaum


  For the better part of this year we have been spending much time discussing and debating the ramifications of Covid 19 and how it has impacted our lives and life style. Yet, little has been said, or written about the virus, from a historical Judaic perspective.

  The Midrash relates that during the rein of King David there was a mysterious plague. Each day some 100 people passed away. Recognizing that something out of the ordinary was amidst, the monarch invoked his divine perception and prophetically foretold that the antidote for the pestilence was to praise G‑d 100 times throughout the day. Indeed, after he instituted the said quota the plague ceased.

  This innovation carries through to this very day. Our three daily prayers as presented in the Siddur provide the requisite quota needed to comply with the edict of the Psalmist. All true, but factually the structured prayers found in the Siddur and recited throughout the day was compiled by Ezra the Scribe who led the Jews back to the Land of Israel after 70 of exile in Babylon. This epic return occurred some five hundred years after the sovereign leadership of King David.

  Hence, this leads me to assume that back then a prayer of thankgiving was an informal spontaneous declaration of gratitude. It did not take on the form and structure of a prescribed written text. Rather it was a heartfelt expression of appreciation in acknowledgement of good health or fortune.  

  The story is told about the Baal Shem Tov, who once approached a scholar deeply engrossed in his study and enquired about his wellbeing. Not wanting to engage in small talk, the academic did not respond. Again the Baal Shem Tov inquire about his health only to be ignored a second time. Not getting any feedback, the Baal Shem Tov rhetorically asked him, “why are you taking away sustenance from G‑d.” Now this piqued the interest of the venerable sage who now lifted his head. The Baal Shem Tov then explained, “the presence of G‑d is not readily felt in the corporeal world. However when we utter words of praise, i.e. ”Thank G‑d,” “Blessed be the Creator,”  “G‑d will help,” etc. we draw down G‑d’s presence to permeate our surrounding.  Indeed, the root meaning of the Hebrew word Baruch means to graft and merge.

  The Covid 19 pandemic has impacted every aspect of society. The fear of infection and illness has us all isolated and sequestered in our personal space. Thank G‑d, by, and large, we in Ontario have avoided the brunt of the raging virus. When so many people have been infected by merely being in the wrong place at the wrong time, it behoves us to express our gratitude. It doesn’t take much faith to recognize G‑d’s benevolence towards us for being spared. While it may not be an overt miracle visible to the naked eye, our good fortune are amongst the hidden and concealed wonders of G‑d, as the Psalmist notes: “His wonders are to Himself, for His kindness is forevever.”  Thank You, HaShem!

May we all be inscribed for a blessed new year of good health, happiness, and the imminent arrival of Mashiach.