Towards the beginning of Parshat Vayeitzei, upon giving birth to Yehudah, Leah exclaims, “This time I will thank Hashem” (29:35). Rashi quoting Chazal, says that she was thankful to Hashem for having received more than her portion of the Shevatim. Through basic math she reasoned that 12 tribes divided by 4 wives would equal 3 tribes for each wife. Therefore, she thanked Hashem upon receiving her fourth, an action for which Chazal greatly praise her. This last part of Rashi is puzzling. Why is it so great that Leah thanked Hashem for getting more than her portion? How hard is it to be thankful for getting extras; would it not be even more praiseworthy for one to be thankful to God for getting just what one needs?
Rav Dovid Kviat provides a novel approach to this question. When good things happen, it is the natural human tendency to think, “I earned that, and I am simply getting what I deserve.” As Moshe Rabeinu warns us in Devarim 8:17, we are likely to rationalize and say that everything we have accomplished is solely due to our own efforts. We believe that it is our hard work and effort that makes us so successful. It is difficult to be objective and take a step back from our PhD’s, MD’s, and high grades to realize that it was not just the work we have put in that brought us to where we are – financially, academically, or otherwise. It was also the Yad Hashem that guided us throughout.
This is why it is so praiseworthy that Leah was able to take a moment to say “I will thank Hashem” for abundance of gifts that He gave her. In fact, none of us gets exactly what he deserves either; we get much more. The close calls, the test for which we forgot to study but luckily passed, our “lucky days” and our good fortunes are all from Hashem. It simply takes a moment of one’s time to reflect and realize the good that Hashem has provided for us, far beyond the strictly warranted proportion.