Lifeways > Judaism

An interesting principle of life is that those who are thankful, those who acknowledge the good that comes into their life, those who recognize life’s miracles (even the small ones), these people get more of what they show gratitude for.

By looking for miracles, we find miracles. Perhaps this is simply because we notice them more. Yet, it seems that good things increase for those who show appreciation. The story below of the Baal Shem Tov illustrates this principle.

This story is reprinted here courtesy of Chabad Rabbis Avremel and Chaya Blesofsky who are based in Iowa City and offer a weekly newsletter.

In the shtetl communities of Eastern Europe, there were often sages who would seclude themselves in houses of study and spend the entire day in prayer and contemplation of the Talmud and its commentaries.
The Baal Shem Tov once entered a room where one of these self-styled saints was sitting. “How are you feeling?” the Baal Shem Tov asked. “Did you have a good breakfast today?”

The scholar looked at the Baal Shem Tov in confusion. What did he want from him? Didn’t he see that he was studying?

The Baal Shem Tov, however, persisted: Do you have warm clothes? Do you have a comfortable home?”

The scholar finally erupted in anger. “Why are you disturbing me?” he asked the Baal Shem Tov.

“You’re making a mistake,” the Baal Shem Tov replied. “Any simple Jew would respond to these questions by saying ‘Boruch Hashem’ or ‘Thank G-d.’ By not responding in this manner, you’re taking away G-d’s dwelling place. For the Psalms describe Him as ‘sitting on the praises of Israel.’ For G-d to rest within our world, we have to acknowledge Him through praise.”

The Baal Shem Tov could have asked the scholar whether his studies were proceeding well. It would have been far more likely that he would have answered him then. Instead, he asked him about physical things. For the intent is that G-d be praised – and thus caused to dwell – within the physical realm, that we bring the awareness of Him into our basic material activities. Hence the questions asked by the Baal Shem Tov.