There is an important characteristic in Judaism called hakaras ha’tov, being grateful. Every Yid must develop an awareness and a mindset that recognizes all the good that one receives and appropriately thank the Giver/giver. One of the ways in which we demonstrate our thanks to Hashem is by reciting Psalm 100 – Mizmor L’Sodah – in our weekday morning prayer service.
Psalm 100 – A Psalm of Thanksgiving – is a song to be sung upon the sacrifices of the Korban Todah (“thanksgiving offering”). The Sages explain that a person would bring a Todah offering upon emerging from one of four life-threatening situations: imprisonment, grave illness, a sea voyage, or desert travel. Psalm 100, which accompanied the Todah offering, is a tribute to the Korban Todah, the thanksgiving offering.
Psalm 100 famously declares, “Ivdu es Hashem b’simchah, bo’u l’fanav bir’nanah – Serve G-d with happiness and joy throughout your life; enter His gates with thanksgiving, His courtyards with praise!” This phrase imbues us to perform Hashem’s commandments in a state of happiness. Radak and the S’forno explain that one should express joy while serving Hashem to show that it is not a burden to do Hashem’s work. The importance of simchah is expressed by a verse in the Tochachah (Rebuke) that describes the terrible calamities that will befall the Jewish people if they fail to heed the word of Hashem. In Sefer D’varim 28:47, it explains that terrible curses of Hashem will befall klal Yisrael “tachas asher lo ovad’ta es Hashem Elokecha b’simchah uv’tuv leivov mei’rov kol – because you did not serve God with happiness and a full heart when (you had an) abundance of everything” (Sefer D’varim – Parshas Ki Savo – chapter 28, verse 47). It was for this reason that the Yidden were being condemned and punished. We were created for the purpose of serving Hashem and bringing His holiness down to this mundane world. Our duty is to serve Hashem in a manner that will give Him nachas.
Psalm 100 – a Psalm of Thanksgiving – is a directive to serve Hashem with joy.
If a person serves Hashem and abides his mitzvos without happiness, the person may begin to act by rote and his prayers will lack meaning. The person may also begin to view the mitzvos as burdens and believe he is doing Hashem a favor by performing them. In order to serve Hashem with happiness, every Yid needs to develop an awareness and acknowledge Hashem’s daily miracles and kindness. When we begin to recognize that all the good comes from Hashem, then we can begin to translate that happiness into a daily expression of gratitude. Rabbi Avigdor Miller teaches us that “[y]ou should make a career of counting your blessings, it should be a career!” If we spend each day thinking of just ten things we are grateful for, we will be able to serve Hashem with more happiness. Happiness is living with gratitude!