This week parshat Tzav coincides with the upcoming celebration of Pesach, both of which teach about the positive power of recognizing when to be grateful and of expressing gratitude.
Parshat Tzav describes the korban Todah, brought after a person experiences a personal miracle such as: a) being healed from an illness, b) being freed from prison, c) crossing a desert or d) sailing across a sea (Rashi). When korbanot could no longer be brought, Chazal instituted a bracha to be said instead, known as the birkat hagomel. Rav Kook, in Olat Reiyah, explains that it is human nature to become indifferent to the basic goodness we are granted each day, but after a traumatic experience one is given a new perspective on life. Reciting the birkat hagomel, or bringing the korban Todah, helped generate feelings of appreciation in ourselves and others.
Expressing gratitude is also a fundamental part of Seder night. Mishna Pesachim teaches that after we tell the story of the Exodus we “are obligated to thank, praise, glorify, extol, exalt, honor, bless, revere, and laud the One who performed for our forefathers and for us all these miracles.”
The full experience of yetziat mitzrayim includes our expressing thanks, just as was done by Bnei Yisrael. In fact, the Talmud teaches that the first time Hallel was recited was after yetziat mitzrayim and this regular Hallel is called by the Sages, “Hallel mitzri”. On Seder night we say an additional section called “Hallel ha-gadol.”
This moment in Israeli history too, feels as though it warrants recognition and expressions of gratitude. Wherever one stands on the political spectrum, the parsha and Pesach are reminders not to become complacent and indifferent to the miracle that is the modern State of Israel. May we draw on this time of positive reflection to listen better, to build consensus, to safeguard and feel proud of our national homeland. Shabbat Shalom and Chag kasher v’sameach! -Karen Miller Jackson