Upon the birth of her fourth child, Jacob’s wife Leah proclaimed, “This time I thank G-d – Odeh es Hashem.” She gave her son a name derived from “Odeh,” thanks: Yehudah, or Judah. The Sages of the Talmud comment that this is the first time in Biblical history someone said thank you to G-d.
How could that be true? Noah brought an offering of thanks after being saved from the Great Flood. Abraham’s servant Eliezer gave thanks when he so quickly found a wife for Isaac. The Patriarchs all gave thanks for the miracles done for them — so why is Leah credited as the first?
When Leah’s predecessors thanked G-d, it was after experiencing an obvious miracle. Leah’s expression was categorically different in this regard. She did so after giving birth, a fairly common occurrence. Thanking G-d for that which seems natural was Leah’s innovation. She understood that there is no need to wait for G-d to alter the natural course in order to say “Thank You.” Even if I’m blessed with a child, that is a gift from G-d for which I must express gratitude.
G-d wants us to take notice of Him, and sense His presence in our own lives. Many of us have experienced what clearly seems miraculous in retrospect — and we are right — and of course we should express our gratitude for those unique experiences. But we should strive, like Leah, to recognize and thank G-d more often.
Each time we express gratitude, we take notice of our constant relationship with the Al-mighty. He doesn’t need our thanks, but we need to cultivate our connection with Him and to feel that need to be thankful. If we ponder the “regular stuff,” the fact that we have shoes to wear, and indoor plumbing, we quickly find countless opportunities to “thank G-d!”