Timeless Thanks by Rabbi Steven Finkelstein


This Shabbos we will continue to celebrate the themes of Purim and simultaneously learn lessons from Parashat Tzav.  Many have noticed that throughout Megillat Ester, Jews are referred to as “Yehudim” and their leader, Mordechai, is called an “Ish Yehudi.”  What is the significance of the name “Yehudi”? What makes it more appropriate for the Megillah than the name Bnei Yisrael?  What message does this highlight for us?

In Parashat Tzav, we learn about the Korban Todah, the Thanksgiving offering.  Chazal point out the importance of the offering by saying that in the future, all animal sacrifices, except the Thanksgiving offering, will be useless.  Additionally, all our prayers, except for the prayers of thanks, will  become obsolete. Similarly, the Shulchan Aruch tells us that it is recommended to say Mizmor LeTodah, the psalm of thanks, with a tune, because in the future, all songs will fall out of use except for this song of thanks.

I think we can all agree that recognizing the good that Hashem does for us is important, but there are many other important Korbanot and countless ways of connecting with Hashem.  What makes the element of thanks the one that will continue for all times?

In the Sefer Or Gedalyahu, Rav Gedalya Schor examines these ideas.  He explains that the word commonly used to connote thanks, Hodaah, actually has two meanings.  First, it is an expression of thanks and gratitude, as we say every day in Shemoneh Esreih, “Modim Anachnu Lach,” “We thank You.”  However, Hodaah is also an expression of admission or confession, as in the term Modeh BeMiktzat, one who admits to part of what he is being sued for, or “Hodaat Baal Din KeMeiah Eidim Dami” “The confession of a defendant is equivalent to the testimony of one hundred witnesses.”

Rav Schor explains that the two definitions are really one and the same. When a human being stops and considers all that Hashem has done for him, he is struck by a sense of gratitude.  He realizes that everything he receives is undeserved.  Through his gratitude he is forced to confess and admit that he is forever indebted to Hashem.

The Jewish people have always prided themselves on their implementing this idea as a driving force in their relationship with Hashem.  The Chidushei HaRim explains that we are described by the name “Yehudim,” from the same root as “Hodaah,” because we are a people who always understand and acknowledge that everything, both big and small , comes from Hashem.

It is also understandable that in the Megillah, the Jews are referred to exclusively as Yehudim.  This name cuts to the heart of the story.  Looking at all of the events in the Megillah, both large and small, it is clear that it was all orchestrated by Hashem.  We too must admit that we are indebted to Hashem for everything, even those things we consider “natural,” and continue to thank Hashem for these things even after all our other korbanot, prayers, and songs will have fallen out of use.

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