Parashat Sav: Double Gratitude
One of the sacrifices discussed in Parashat Sav is the Korban Toda, or thanksgiving offering. A person who emerged safely from certain dangerous situations – illness, captivity, desert travel or an overseas trip – was required to bring this sacrifice to express his gratitude to the Almighty for helping him survive the perilous situation.
David Hamelech writes in the Book of Tehillim (50:23) that God declares, "One who offers a Toda gives Me honor." In formulating this verse, David employs an unusual term – "Yechabedaneni" ("gives Me honor"). According to the normal rules of grammatical conjugation, this word should read, "Yechabedani." David, however, adds an extra letter "Nun," yielding the seemingly peculiar term, "Yechabedaneni."
It has been explained that David added an extra "Nun" to allude to the double feelings of gratitude that one should feel upon being rescued from a dangerous situation. Firstly, and far more obviously, one should feel grateful for being saved. But in addition, one must thank the Almighty for putting him in the situation that required salvation. Upon being cured from a serious illness, for example, one might instinctively think, "Why did God put me in this situation to begin with? Why should I thank Him for rescuing me – He was the one who brought the danger upon me in the first place!" David therefore instructs us that we must not only feel grateful, but feel grateful on both accounts – for both the original crisis, and for the salvation.
Why should we feel grateful to God for putting us in a situation of crisis?
God loves each and every Jew like a parent loves a child. Just as a parent will not do anything to harm a child, similarly, God will not do anything to harm us. He might punish us, as a parent must occasionally punish a child, but this, too, is done out of love and concern – just as a parent punishes a child out of love. In fact, God’s punishments are even a greater expression of love than those of parents. When a parent punishes, it might be motivated by anger, frustration or anxiety, and is not always purely out of concern for the child. When God punishes us, however, we can be certain that it is out of love, and for no other reason.
We say in our prayer service before the Shema recitation, "Ahabat Olam Ahabtanu" – "You have loved us with eternal love." God’s love for Am Yisrael is eternal; it is not dependent or contingent upon anything. Anything He does that affects us must therefore be attributed to His love for us. Even if it seems harsh, it is undoubtedly for our benefit.
For this reson, we must thank Him for everything – both for the salvation, and for the crisis that preceded it. Even if we cannot understand how, the crisis was for our benefit and in our best interests. We thus express to God double gratitude – not only for helping us get through the hard times, but also for bringing the hard times upon us in the first place.