Put the THANKS in THANKSGIVING

תנו רבנן הרואה אוכלוסי ישראל אומר ברוך חכם הרזים שאין דעתם דומה זה לזה ואין פרצופיהן דומים זה לזה בן זומא ראה אוכלוסא על גב מעלה בהר הבית אמר ברוך חכם הרזים וברוך שברא כל אלו לשמשני הוא היה אומר כמה יגיעות יגע אדם הראשון עד שמצא פת לאכול חרש וזרע וקצר ועמר ודש וזרה וברר וטחן והרקיד ולש ואפה ואחר כך אכל ואני משכים ומוצא כל אלו מתוקנין לפני וכמה יגיעות יגע אדם הראשון עד שמצא בגד ללבוש גזז ולבן ונפץ וטוה וארג ואחר כך מצא בגד ללבוש ואני משכים ומוצא כל אלה מתוקנים לפני כל אומות שוקדות ובאות לפתח ביתי ואני משכים ומוצא כל אלו לפני.

Our Rabbis taught: One who sees a crowd of Israelites, is to say, Blessed is the One who discerns secrets, for their minds are not similar to each other, and their faces are not similar to each other. Ben Zoma once saw a crowd on one of the steps of the Temple Mount. He said, Blessed is the One who discerns secrets, and blessed is the One who has created all these to serve me. For he used to say: What labors the first person had to carry out before he obtained bread to eat! He ploughed, he sowed, he reaped, he bound [the sheaves], he threshed and winnowed and selected the ears, he ground [them], and sifted [the flour], he kneaded and baked, and then at last he ate. But I get up, and find all these things done for me. And how many labors the first person had to carry out before he obtained a garment to wear! He had to shear, wash [the wool], comb it, spin it and weave it, and then at last he obtained a garment to wear; whereas I get up and find all these things done for me. All kinds of craftsmen come early to the door of my house, and I rise in the morning and find all these before me. [Soncino translation] [The standard text reads אומות, which translates as “craftsmen”. Alternate texts read אומנויות, nations, and Rashi explains this is because a single nation cannot provide every person’s need. What one country lacks, the other provides]

Suggested Discussion Questions

1. What was Ben Zoma's realization?

2. In what ways is Ben Zoma like us? In what ways is he different?

3. Whom do we credit with providing us with our food and clothing today? Do we give proper recognition?

(ז) כִּ֚י יְהוָ֣ה אֱלֹהֶ֔יךָ מְבִֽיאֲךָ֖ אֶל־אֶ֣רֶץ טוֹבָ֑ה אֶ֚רֶץ נַ֣חֲלֵי מָ֔יִם עֲיָנֹת֙ וּתְהֹמֹ֔ת יֹצְאִ֥ים בַּבִּקְעָ֖ה וּבָהָֽר׃ (ח) אֶ֤רֶץ חִטָּה֙ וּשְׂעֹרָ֔ה וְגֶ֥פֶן וּתְאֵנָ֖ה וְרִמּ֑וֹן אֶֽרֶץ־זֵ֥ית שֶׁ֖מֶן וּדְבָֽשׁ׃ (ט) אֶ֗רֶץ אֲשֶׁ֨ר לֹ֤א בְמִסְכֵּנֻת֙ תֹּֽאכַל־בָּ֣הּ לֶ֔חֶם לֹֽא־תֶחְסַ֥ר כֹּ֖ל בָּ֑הּ אֶ֚רֶץ אֲשֶׁ֣ר אֲבָנֶ֣יהָ בַרְזֶ֔ל וּמֵהֲרָרֶ֖יהָ תַּחְצֹ֥ב נְחֹֽשֶׁת׃ (י) וְאָכַלְתָּ֖ וְשָׂבָ֑עְתָּ וּבֵֽרַכְתָּ֙ אֶת־יְהוָ֣ה אֱלֹהֶ֔יךָ עַל־הָאָ֥רֶץ הַטֹּבָ֖ה אֲשֶׁ֥ר נָֽתַן־לָֽךְ׃

7 For the Lord your God is bringing you into a good land, a land with streams and springs and fountains issuing from plain and hill; 8 a land of wheat and barley, of vines, figs, and pomegranates, a land of olive trees and [date] honey; 9 a land where you may eat bread without scarceness, where you will lack nothing; a land whose rocks are iron and from whose hills you can mine bronze. 10 When you have eaten and you are satisfied, give thanks to the Lord your God for the good land which God has given you. [translation by Hazon]

Suggested Discussion Questions

This passage describes a complete and fulfilled life: land, food, abundance, God, gratitude, religious obligation, promise of a future. The “seven species” described in the Deuteronomy text still grow in Israel today. To the ancients, they were emblematic of the bounty of the land. Do you think it is possible to achieve these feelings of completeness outside of Israel? If so, where do you feel you could most meet all of your needs?