Dealing with Adversity – Hallel v’Hodaah

In Al Hanissim we state that Chanukah is a time “l’hodos ul’hallel — to express thanks and praise” for the miracles Hashem did for us at this time — specifically the military victory over the Yevamim and the nes of one day’s worth of oil burning for eight days. In reality, it is more than that. Chanukah is an opportunity to reflect on the numerous miracles Hashem did for us throughout the generations such as taking us out of Egypt and blotting out Amalek. It also reminds us of the daily miracles — large and small — Hashem does for us continuously.

In Parashas Vayeitzei, Leah exclaimed, “Hapaam odeh es Hashem — now I will thank Hashem,” upon naming her fourth son, Yehudah. The name Yehudah comes from the word l’hodos, which means to thank, and is the origin for the word Yehudi — Jew. We see from here that the quintessence of being a Jew is to give thanks for all we have and not to take anything for granted.

Indeed, this truth comes to the fore after arising each morning when we articulate our first words of the day, “Modeh ani l’fanechah — I thank you” as we begin the day. It reflects the sentiment that one cannot accomplish anything without Hashem’s assistance and compassion.

In Shemoneh Esrei, in Modim we express this sentiment in greater detail, describing the Ribbono shel Olam as the “Rock of our Lives, Shield of our Salvation.” Harav Avigdor Miller comments that one who stands on a rock is in a position of strength, for it is difficult to fight one who is high up; “No one can tunnel under Him, because the rock is hard … and when there occurs some distress which interferes with the regular processes of life, and we need especial intervention on our behalf, [Hashem is] the Shield that stands between us and misfortune.”

Additionally, we must thank those around us who benefit us somehow — our parents, spouses, relatives, mentors, friends. For most people, the list is extensive. Saying ‘thank you’ shows our recognition that we are limited in our abilities and knowledge and we need other people to fill the void.

Many people find it challenging to say thank you to someone else. They are uncomfortable admitting that they could not succeed without their benefactor’s assistance. Breaking one’s arrogance is needed to steel oneself to do so. This realization helps us to cultivate humility.

Considering the benefits of such a mindset will hopefully make things easier. Sefer Mishlei (3:34) tells us, “L’anavim yitein chein — to those who are humble, Hashem will grant favor (chein).” Chein in the eyes of Hashem and people is the key to blessing. Sefer Orchos Tzaddikim writes that a humble man’s tefillos are answered immediately. Our Sages tell us that if someone is shamed — i.e., brought to a humbled state — that moment is an eis ratzon, a fitting time to daven for salvation. The greater the humility that is generated, the more one can hope for a more generous measure of chein one will be given by Hashem.

Sefer Pele Yoetz amplifies this idea by saying that when one praises Hashem, it not only makes his own life more enjoyable but Hashem considers it a mitzvah for which He allocates reward. The sefer quotes the Midrash which says, “Whoever experiences a miracle and sings shirah, [i.e. gives thanks for it], another miracle will be performed for him as a reward.

When one becomes accustomed to receiving gifts from a benefactor, there is often an tendency to begin to take things for granted. Ironically, the very continuity of the unfathomable largess that Hashem bestows upon us — our health, food, housing, the very air we breathe — serves to impede our ability to appreciate it properly.

Harav Yisrael Salanter was visiting Paris to inspire the secular Jews there. He entered a restaurant and requested a glass of water after which he was given a bill for 50 francs. When he asked the waiter about the high price, he replied, “Rabbi, you are not paying only for the water! You’re paying for the ambiance in which you partook of the water — the crystal glass in which you drink it, the elegant surroundings, the tapestries on the walls, the view. …”

Rav Yisrael paid the bill and, afterward, he penned a letter to his talmidim back home in Russia explaining that he now knows why when we recite a brachah on water we say, “Shehakol neheyiah b’devaro — that everything comes about through His word.” We are thanking Hashem not merely for the water alone but rather for everything around us that we enjoy when we partake of the water. Let us utilize the elevated zman of Chanukah to ponder and express gratitude for the bountiful gifts we receive.

Rabbi Yosef Gesser is a longtime writer for Hamodia Newspaper as well as an inspirational speaker on various topics, including dealing with adversity. He can be reached at

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