On Sunday evening, December 8, Rabbi Benzion Klatzko, founder of shabbat.com and well-known speaker, shared a beautiful shiur at Beth Gavriel, hosted by Chazaq. His topic was “Emunah and Shidduchim,” and he included how to have meaningful relationships and success in all areas of life.
“Whatever we need for relationships, we need in whatever we do. A righteous person lives on his emunah.” Rabbi Klatzko asked the audience, “What is the difference between a person going through life joyously, healthily, with no anxiety, with many friends, and good self-esteem, compared to a person who has anxiety, low self-esteem, trouble with friends, and feels depressed?” He shared that there is one idea – one linchpin. “If you have this, you will open up all the doors of blessing; and if you don’t have this, you will have difficulty in all areas.” He shared that this thing is gratitude. Understanding what we have, appreciating it, acknowledging it, is literally the key to mental health. “Today more than ever, even in the non-Jewish world, if a person understands what he or she has, then everything changes.”
We are living in a world where people are chronically dissatisfied. Bestselling books are all self-help books, because we are dissatisfied with ourselves and who we are. We feel there are standards of good looks and we don’t measure up. With social media, everyone promotes his best possible image. People don’t realize that people use Photoshop and these photos are not necessarily realistic. It can look on social media like everyone is having a party and we missed out. We can become envious and feel disappointed in ourselves. This is why depression and anxiety have grown, because we believe the world is having a great time without us. A person may feel disappointed in his job, his relationships, his knowledge, etc. “When a person has gratitude, the focus changes entirely.”
We all go through hardships. Every person has failures or gets sick. No one is immune. The question is how we handle these difficulties. Rabbi Klatzko calls that resilience, “bounce-back-ability.” When a person possesses gratitude, his ability to handle hardship changes entirely.
Some people feel lonely and say they don’t have any friends. In reality, they have friends, but they don’t appreciate the ones they have, so they look for others. The advantage of gratitude is we begin to appreciate whom we do have in our lives.
When we have experiences in life, sometimes we are not sure how to translate them. We have the ability to spin everything that happens to us in a positive way. If we are not grateful, then every experience we have falls through and we become cynical and numb to life.
As we grow older, life moves by faster. There is a way to slow it down. He explained that when we are young, everything that happens is new and exciting. This excitement creates a memory marker. As we get older, experiences don’t create memory markers, because we have done these things already. So, nothing marks the passage of time. To slow time down, you have to create your own memory markers and you do that through gratitude. If everything you experience is, whoa, I’m so grateful, it’s beautiful, then everything is exciting and everything creates a memory marker.
So, the downside of lack of gratitude is that life goes by very quickly, because nothing is exciting to you. Life just passes you by. Rav Noach Weinberg zt”l, rosh ha’yeshivah of Aish HaTorah, used to say, “Become a connoisseur of pleasure. Appreciate everything.”
Rabbi Klatzko pointed out that if you have gratitude, you will sleep better, it will prevent addictions, and you will be less prone to depression, anxiety, and cynicism. He posed the problem of an atheist. To whom is he grateful? “You can only have gratitude if you are grateful to someone. Gratitude to no one is not gratitude.” The Hebrew word todah has the root modeh, which means to admit. I am admitting that I am grateful to you. The more emunah we have, the more we recognize that all the gifts we have come from Hashem.
Rabbi Klatzko went on to show how we as Jews have gratitude built into our day. We start the day by reciting Modeh Ani, thanking Hashem for returning our soul to us. Then we recite the morning blessings that thank Hashem for providing us with all we have. Once we have thanked Hashem, then we are ready to come close to Him. The word Yehudi, Jew, means thank you. “We can’t come close to Hashem without being grateful.”
Rabbi Klatzko continued. “You want to have good kids? Teach politeness. Raise children who are grateful.”
He then applied this idea to shidduchim. “The most attractive trait you can demonstrate is positivity and gratefulness. If a person shows positive confidence in life, he becomes attractive.”
Chazal teach us in Pirkei Avos that a wealthy person is someone who is happy with his lot. “Gratefulness is simply a matter of meditating on what you have.” He shared some ideas from a woman named Breindy who, though she is severely disabled, exhibits a beautiful attitude of gratitude. He shared some of her sayings:
“To maintain happiness, you have to know who you are.”
“Value people for what is in their heart, not how they look or dress.”
“If there is a will, there is a way.”
“You cannot choose the life you get; you can only choose your attitude.”
Rabbi Klatzko added: “If you want to find someone who will love you, be loveable. If you want someone who is positive, be positive. If you want someone with emunah, find someone with the attitude of gratitude to Hashem.”
He then shared how to develop gratitude. He recommended keeping a journal and writing down what you are grateful for, specifically things you take for granted.
He concluded with a beautiful brachah that everyone should incorporate gratitude into their lives and let it shine forth, and through this they should find shidduchim and everything else they need.
This shiur can be viewed on www.TorahAnytime.com.