A key element in human relationships is the ability to express thanks. We also need the complementary skill: to accept thanks graciously. The simple step of appreciating the effort made by another person helps to join hearts, and to traverse the natural barriers, such as the layers of self, which divide one individual from another.

While the concept of giving thanks is important among human beings, it is also central in our relationship with G‑d. Almost all of our responses to G‑d through following the path of Jewish teaching can be seen as expressions of appreciation and thanks, for the infinite bounty that G‑d bestows day by day — despite all the apparent problems and the dark patches.

One of the methods of expressing thanks to G‑d is described in this week's Torah reading. This is the Thanksgiving Offering,1 which an individual could bring to the Temple on any weekday. It was brought as expression of thanks to G‑d by someone who experienced any of four specific kinds of danger: a captive who was freed; a person who crossed the sea; one who traversed the desert, and someone who has recovered from an illness. During the offering of this sacrifice on the Altar in the Temple, the joyful Psalm 100 would be sung by the Levites. This is now part of the morning service on weekdays. Together with the offering would be a number of Matzot (unleavened bread) and loaves of leavened bread. The minimum number was three Matzot, and one leavened loaf.

A fascinating aspect of Jewish teaching is the way the Sages often connect together seemingly disparate ideas. The three Matzot of the Thanksgiving Offering link with the three Matzot at the Passover Seder.2 The Sages point out that on Passover we went free from captivity in Egypt. We also crossed the Red Sea, and traversed the desert.3 These are three of the four reasons for bringing a Thanksgiving Offering in the Temple. So we have yet another good reason to express our thanks to G‑d, in the exultant Seder gathering.4