Hukkat: What Have You Done for Me Lately?

What happened yesterday about which you still feel grateful today?  

How about the day-before-yesterday?  Last week? Last month? Last year? 

It’s hard, and maybe impossible, to feel grateful for benefits received that we no longer recall.  Gratitude is an essential element of happiness.  Thus, there is a direct link from memory to gratitude to happiness

Perhaps this is one reason why Judaism is so focused on memory.  We usually think of Jewish historical memory as being a key to continuity as a people, and this is certainly true.  But it’s more than this.  Keeping things in mind for which we should be grateful is, I think, an essential key to Jewish happiness.

In this week’s Parashah, Hukkat, the Canaanite King of Arad (then a fortress city in the Negev whose remains can still be visited) fought Israel and took captives.  The people pled to G-d, and were saved, but almost immediately spoke against G-d and Moses, saying “Why did you make us leave Egypt to die in the wilderness?  There is no bread and no water, and we have come to loathe this miserable food.”  (Numbers 21:1-5). 

They seem to have almost instantly forgotten that, but for G-d’s recent intervention, they would be slaves or dead.  Are we also ingrates?

Our liturgy and festivals are filled with reminders of the blessings we have received -- and continue to receive. Surely, one of the key purposes of daily prayer is to remind us of many things, both those that occurred long ago and those that continue in the moment, for which we should be grateful … and help make us happy! 

This Shabbat, why not take time to contemplate these things and discuss them with others, particularly our children and grandchildren.  It will make them happier, and ourselves as well. 

To borrow from Menchie’s Frozen Yogurt’s motto, [Remember to be grateful and] “Have a smiley [Shabbat] day.” 

Or, perhaps, rather than "Don't worry; be happy" we should say "Remember ...be grateful ... and be happy."

Shabbat sameach!

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If charity cost nothing, the world would be full of philanthropists.
Jewish Proverb