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  • Rabbi Idan Scher

Say Thanks

Last night at dinner we were talking about the meal we would choose if we had to eat the same meal every single day for forty years. My youngest said "pizza" and my oldest said "noodles." This was obviously triggered by the story of the "Manna," the food the Jews ate in the desert for forty years.

Here's a short piece on the Manna and the way we human beings think:

While the Jewish people journeyed through the desert for forty years, God fed the Jewish people "manna from heaven." Our Sages tell us that not only was the manna supremely accessible, remarkably, it tasted exactly like anything the Jews wanted it to taste like.

But even while being sustained with this miracle food, the Jews still complained and said:

"Who will feed us meat? We remember the fish that we ate in Egypt ... but now ... we have nothing ... but the manna… and the wrath of God flared greatly" (Numbers 11:4-10)

The obvious question is how in the world could a group of people who had just been freed after years of slavery, been shown miracle upon miracle, and have every one of their needs provided for, still manage to complain about something so insignificant?

Perhaps the answer lies in an important insight into human nature.

It would seem that the human mind all too often naturally focuses on what is lacking, on what we do not have. It takes actual effort for us to think about the blessings of what we do have.

Unless one makes a conscious decision to focus on the positive, it is almost as if by default the human mind simply and easily drift towards negative and unproductive thoughts.

The Jewish people had been given everything from God - their lives, their freedom, and all of their physical needs were provided for with little or no effort. But instead of being overjoyed beyond belief by focusing on what they now had, the Jews allowed their minds to go into the default position and complain about all the things they didn't have.

Because they didn't focus on what they had, God knew that there was no way they would ever be happy and that is why "the wrath of God flared greatly." There's no amount of blessing that could ever make someone happy if he or she chooses to not think about them. Everything God gave the Jews kept them happy only temporarily and then their focus switched from joy to what was now lacking. Their entire well-being and attitude diametrically changed as soon as their focus changed.

And this is a powerful lesson for all of us. For a life of peace and joy, it's absolutely mandatory to take time each and every day to really and truly think about the blessings God showers us with and the goodness we receive from others; as a lack of appreciation and awareness is the first and biggest step towards unhappiness.

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