Tonight we will celebrate Lag B’Omer, the 33rd day of the Omer. Each day of the Omer is characterized by another kabbalistic attribute. Lag B’Omer is Hod sh’b’hod, the glory of glory, reflecting our appreciation of God’s greatness and glory. The Hebrew word hod can be understood as coming from the same word as hodu, or modeh, meaning thanks. Lag B’Omer is a day characterized as “thankfulness within thankfulness,” or a day to celebrate gratitude. Why are we so grateful? Rebbe Akiva’s students stopped dying because there were no more left. Is that a reason to be grateful?
The Chassam Sofer, Rav Moshe Sofer says we celebrate Lag Ba’Omer for an altogether different reason and it is one that teaches us about gratitude. Historically, the miraculous mann that fell from Heaven began to descend on Lag B’Omer. On the first day, the mann was undoubtedly greeted with great enthusiasm and appreciation, but as time went on and there was an increasing expectation the heavenly bread would descend, it became much easier to take it for granted and to forget to be appreciative for it at all. Therefore Lag B’Omer is a time that we identify and say thank you for all of the blessings that regularly descend into our lives, but unfortunately, like the mann, that we take for granted.
It is so easy to fall into a sense of entitlement and to forget to be grateful. Why should I thank my children’s teachers? They’re just doing their job. Why should I be so appreciative to the waiter, or the custodian, or the stewardess? Isn’t that what they are supposed to do? When was the last time we said thank you to whomever cleans our dirty laundry? Do we express gratitude regularly to our spouse who shops, cooks dinner, or who worked all day to pay for dinner, or in some cases did both?
As we celebrate Lag B’Omer, let’s not just say modeh ani in the morning and then quickly transition to feelings of entitlement for the rest of the day. Say thank you to the people who do extraordinary things in our lives. But even more importantly, express gratitude to the people who do the ordinary things that make our lives so filled with blessing.