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Giving Thanks

"I give thanks to You, living and everlasting King, for restoring my soul within me. Great is your faithfulness." This is the Modeh Ani prayer, the very first words that a Jew recites upon awakening in the morning. The first act of the day is gratitude - expressing our thanks to G-d for giving us another day of life.

Early morning is not the only time of day that the Torah enjoins us to stop and show our appreciation. Throughout the day, we acknowledge our debt and gratitude to G-d with a plethora of blessings - thanking G-d for our food, health, clothing, and intelligence.

The mitzvah of giving thanks can be found in this week's Torah portion, which talks about the obligation of bringing bikkurim, a gift of first fruits, to the Temple. When beholding the beautiful first fruits of the year, the first reaction is to dedicate the best of them to G-d. This serves as a reminder that all the bounty we have is a gift from G-d. Our labor alone did not produce the fruits; we acknowledge our partner, who sent the rain and made the fruits grow.

When the fruits were brought to the Temple, the donor recited a thanksgiving prayer, to express his gratitude to G-d for taking His people out of Egypt and granting them the land flowing with milk and honey.

When giving thanks, it is proper to do so with a full heart, and to choose the finest and the best gift with which to express your gratitude. Just as we set aside the first minute of the day to thank G-d for His gift of life, we must dedicate the best of each stage of life to holiness.

It is written in Ethics of our Fathers: "Teaching a child is like ink written on fresh paper. Teaching an elder is like ink written on faded paper." A child's mind is open and can easily absorb new information. Thus, youth is the finest time to dedicate to the study of Torah. A child is not distracted by financial worries, and can devote his time to G-d without distractions. Teaching your child Torah at a young age is the best way to thank G-d for granting you the gift of a child.

After the discussion of the mitzvah of bikkurim, the portion of Ki Tavo lists the blessing that will come to those who keep the Torah, and rebuke for those who do not. The rebuke is directed towards those who "did not serve G-d with joy and gladness of heart." In other words, serving G-d is not enough. We must also dedicate our hearts to Him and fulfill His will with joy and enthusiasm. This is how we demonstrate our gratitude to G-d for all He does for us.

When we give to G-d our first and finest, and do it with joy, we will merit the fulfillment of the concluding verse of the section of bikkurim: "Look down from Your holy dwelling in heaven, and bless your nation, Israel."
 

 


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