Did you know ancient Jewish texts thought of sleep as 1/60th of death? I must confess that while our daily prayer requires us to begin every morning by thanking God for waking up, it can often be difficult to thank God so early in the morning. At 5:30 when that alarm clock goes off, I usually just want to roll over and go back to sleep. Nevertheless, somehow I pull myself together and face the day. Modeh ani l’fanecha (I am thankful before you) are the words we are asked to speak before stepping foot into a new day. But what does it mean to be grateful for a day that you have yet to discover?
This week we read from parshat Ki Tavo, which is filled with the final narrative of the Israelites getting ready for their entry into the Land of Israel. We read about the gifts the Israelites are to bring to the Beit HaMikdash as well as the blessings and curses that come to the land and to those who observe Torah and God’s commandments. The parshah begins and ends with the requirement to recognize and give gratitude for the good that comes to us.
Chapter 26 reads like an instruction manual for those expecting to enter and participate in the Israelite community. Specifically, verse 3 requires a person giving a gift that blesses God to say “I acknowledge this day before the Lord your God that I have entered the land that the Lord swore to our fathers to assign us.” While this serves as what we might consider a verbal receipt of gift giving, it actually goes much deeper. This statement requires the individual to acknowledge and make clear that they see the blessing in both the fruits that they have grown and the ability to give a gift in the first place. In this case, the gift cannot be given until the person who gives it is able to acknowledge the blessing and meaning of the act.
Think about your morning. How often do you greet something with a “good morning” and actually mean “I hope you have a good morning”? How often are these just empty words we speak out of habit? Gratitude doesn’t often come naturally to most people. It’s not because we’re heartless or even ungrateful. It’s because the routine of the act has superseded the meaning of the act. In a sense, our text this week, not to mention our daily prayers, teaches us to be grateful for being grateful. May we use that lesson as a reminder to add a little bit of ourselves back into everything we do. Good morning.