Chanukah is the time for thanking and praising Hashem…by focusing on the good, we help ourselves see the miracles we experience every day.
Upon our return from a transatlantic flight from New York, one of our handbags went missing. Having contained several items that were not only monetarily valuable but also sentimental, it was not just “one of our handbags,” and the story behind it made the loss exponentially more painful (never let anyone help you with your bags!). So, when we finally got home on Thursday afternoon after a gorgeous two-week trip for a family simcha, our hearts held incredible memories—and an aching longing for The Bag.
From Friday night through Shabbos morning, as my children and I watched sunrise in our jet-lagged state, all I could think of was The Bag. I understood that it was only a bag, of course, and I was grateful that we had all returned healthy and in good spirits, baruch Hashem, but still. If you’ve ever lost something—anything—even the back of an earring—you know how searing losing something can be.
I noticed how as many times as my mind kept reviewing the absolutely wonderful moments that we had spent with family and friends, there was that dial that kept interfering, naughtily jolting me back to my Bag-less reality. So as I sat with the kids, playing round after round of their brand new American games, we discussed how the yetzer hara keeps dragging us toward the bad, the negative, the dark. What could we do to celebrate the light? Right then, as night gave way to another glorious day, we decided to stroll down memory lane together, singling out every single detail of our trip that was perfectly orchestrated to our benefit—and to thank Hashem for it, together, out loud. The fun plane packages we got from friends before leaving? Thank you, Hashem. The near-private plane that enabled us all to sleep soundly through the flight (due to COVID)? Thank you, Hashem. The magnificent weather? Wow, thank You for that. For two whole hours, the more we thanked, the more grateful we felt. The more we focused on the good, the less we were dragged down by the no good.
That’s the way it always is: When I thank for what I perceive as good (because essentially everything is good), I become more aware of how blessed I am. But there’s more. When we thank Hashem, the sefarim tell us, we facilitate the abundance of more miracles in our life. How does that work? At the core of everything Hakadosh Baruch Hu sends our way is His desire for connection. Like a father who wants to foster a deeper relationship with his children so they can feel loved and cherished, He keeps showering us with blessings so we’ll look up and notice Him, so we’ll look up and say, “Oh, this is from You. I feel Your love. I want to be close to You.” When we do so, the blessings multiply.
And so, when we choose to thank Hashem for the good—as well as for the bad—we’re opening the door to miracles. With our perspective of gratitude, we’re inviting them into our life. Often, the miracles look exactly the way we’ve envisioned: we merit the yeshuah we’ve longed for. Other times, they come in the form of a more cemented bond with Hashem. When that happens, we’re the true winners because with connection comes joy, with connection comes inner peace. And when we experience that, so much of what we thought we needed, so much of what we thought we couldn’t live without becomes trivial in the face of what we’ve gained.
The great maggid from Bnei Brak, Rav Yankele Galinsky zt”l, often said, “It’s not only that our salvation is dependent on our tefillah and that tefillah helps bring about the geulah, but that tefillah in itself is the yeshuah.”
Rav Yankele (in Vehigadeta, Bamidbar) continues and says, “Why is that so? Tefillah is a lashon of deveikus, connection, and Geulah is also all about coming closer to Hashem. The Bais Hamikdash, known as Beis Tefillasi, was the place of ultimate connection…. This is why, Chazal teach us, our Imahos were barren—because Hakadosh Baruch Hu craves for the tefillos of tzadikim. One could see a woman who is blessed with many children and her friend is barren. It may appear as if she’s davening and begging and her tefillos are going unanswered. It may appear like the first friend is blessed and the second one is cursed. But, from a Heavenly view, the first one is blessed indeed but the second one is deeply connected to her Creator. She is building a Mikdash in her heart. She’s living a life of Olam Haba in this world.”
Thanking in itself is the miracle. When we’re constantly thanking Hashem, in our own words, we’re forging the connection that is worth more than any worldly asset. We are not only inviting the miracle we’re envisioning, as many can attest, but we’re also ushering indescribable spiritual pleasure into our life. If we think about it, that’s at the core of everything we ask for. Whether it’s health, parnassah, nachas, happiness—everything we want emanates from this very need that we have: to feel connection and security. By thanking, we are enabling this bond to happen. We feel that we’re in Hashem’s embrace, safe and secure.
The main theme of our Yom Tov of miracles, Chanukah, is indeed lehodos ulehaleil, to thank and praise. Chazal established these eight days for us to do just that—thank You, Hashem; thank You, Hashem; thank You, Hashem. By expressing our gratitude again and again, by choosing to focus on all the good He showers us with—from the very minor to the very major— and taking the moment to simply whisper a thanks for it–even the perfect parking spot, the donuts that came out just so, the idea for the family game—we’re facilitating miracles of every kind.
So did my family and I experience the kind of miracle we envisioned, where the woman who kindly took The Bag somehow managed to track us down and offered to return it? No. Not yet, at least. But by taking the time to thank, and by continuing to do so, we’ve experienced a different kind of light—the light of connection, of feeling grateful, of feeling blessed. And it helped that my dear mother sent me and my husband replacement scarves as a Chanukah gift. That’s from Hashem, too.