The Value of Gratitude
“Always give your best” is a common refrain from the mouths of teachers, parents and coaches. In most cases they mean effort. But in this week’s portion, Korach, the Torah takes a more tangible approach when talking about giving one’s best. God tells Aaron, “All the best of the oil, and all of the best of the wine, and all of the wheat, the first fruits of them which they shall offer to the Lord, these have I given to you.” (Bamidbar 18:11). God is telling the Kohanim that they are to receive a prime portion of all the sacrifices that the Israelites bring to God. In a way, it is a beautiful example of God doing what God is asking, by giving away a portion of the sacrifices before even receiving them.
But why do we have to give the first and best fruits of our labor? Why can’t we give what is left over? Isn’t it enough just to give? I would like to suggest one possible answer that dovetails nicely with our summer theme of hakarat hatov (being grateful). By giving the first of what we receive, we are rushing to express gratitude for our good fortune. We realize that although we may have worked hard, God’s blessings were also necessary to make this happen. From the redemption of first born males to the offering of the first fruits, we recognize how much could have gone wrong along the way. All too often we hear stories about couples who have difficulty conceiving, extreme weather destroying crops, or disease wiping out livestock. By rushing to thank God, we acknowledge that we are not solely in control of the bounty we receive. This humility helps us, I believe, to be empathetic toward others.
Rushing to give gratitude is a wonderful trait that demonstrates one’s priorities and faith. In this spirit, even though camp is just beginning, I want to thank you for the opportunity to work with your children. Additionally, your commitment to sending your kids to Ramah shows your gratitude to God for them, the priority you have put on developing committed Jews, and the faith you have that if you provide these opportunities, your children will benefit. We will give our best to honor that faith and help teach your children many things, including the value of gratitude.