It’s a genuinely inspiring book, yet its impact is so powerful, I recommend reading Garden of Emuna first.
Maybe it’s just me, but I feel that had I read Garden of Gratitude before reading Garden of Emuna, it would’ve hit me too hard and I just wouldn’t have been able to absorb it properly.
Then there is the easily digestible Garden of Miracles: Say Thank You & See Salvation.
There, you’ll find letters and testimonies from around the world of people of different religious backgrounds, ethnicities, and nationalities who read Garden of Emuna, started expressing gratitude to Hashem, and discovered an expanded mind and heart, plus an improved life. Some of the stories are quite amazing.
Gratitude as Cheshbon Hanefesh
In fact, gratitude seems almost like a sneaky short-cut around doing real get-your-hands-dirty self-scrutiny and cheshbon hanefesh.
But looking at a mussar classic from nearly a thousand years ago, we find the Chovot Halevavot/Duties of the Heart details a 30-part cheshbon hanefesh that consists primarily of meditating on all the nice things Hashem has done for you.
(Seriously. Take a look at Shaar Cheshbon Hanefesh/Gate of Spiritual Accounting.)
For example, if you look at Cheshbon #2 in Chapter 3, it basically asks you to sit there and happily ruminate over all the body parts you enjoy and their functionality. (Do you have a tongue? Does it work? Great! How about your saliva production? Not too much, else you’d be drooling & not too little, else how would you ever swallow cinnamon-buttered toast?)
Chesbon #2 also references the symmetry of the human body.
For example, your elbows aren’t where your knees are and vice-versa. Your feet don’t extend from your shoulder joints and you don’t have hands where your feet should be.
In a world where each person endured the nisayon of randomly applied limbs, getting out of bed would be a major challenge. Meeting the most basic needs would consume our entire day every day. How would we ever progress beyond the most primitive tasks? Performing surgery or even “just” CPR would be impossible, as would any task that makes life more comfortable and convenient or produces great accomplishments.
Our intellect would suffer too because such a challenging life would leave us no time for intellectual pursuits or learning Torah. (How could we even scribe a Torah scroll or record chiddushim with an asymmetrical body?)
How Gratitude Creates Real Results
When you know that everything really comes from Hashem and is good, that’s emuna and bitachon.
A grateful person is truly happy. Meaning, not hyper or frivolous, but content and feeling loved by the Creator.
A grateful person maintains constant connection to Hashem because in everything that happens, such a person immediately turns to Hashem, whether with praise or with a plea for help.
One who is grateful to Hashem doesn’t get depressed or detached. Such a person does not slip into sin. Feeling happy and fulfilled by his or her intimate relationship with Hakadosh Baruch Hu, what need does such a person have for taavot like food, drugs, illicit relationships, or violence?
Feeling happy and loved by Hashem, what urge does such a person have for revenge, hurting others, anger, depression, mockery, or wasting time?
Furthermore, such a person will naturally regret former forbidden behaviors because their state of gratitude and contentment is so compelling and fulfilling.
So such a person naturally regrets former forbidden actions and naturally wants to be good.
Furthermore, it’s easier for such a person to remedy and attempt to rectify past misdeeds.
Enveloped in bitachon (the certainty that everything that happens is good even if it’s not enjoyable), they know they have nothing to fear from admitting their mistakes, even if the other person is unforgiving and harsh. Since all money is from Hashem, they find it easier to pay back what they owe and make expensive amends.
One who truly believes that EVERYTHING is from Hashem holds no arrogance or pride. They just feel lucky and loved that Hashem gifted them whatever strong points or good fortune they enjoy.
Needless to say, I’m not on that level—but I sure would like to be!
Mashiach is Born from Gratitude
Our very name--Yehudi—comes from the word hoda’ah, l’hodot: to thank.
Upon Yehudah's birth, Leah Imeinu said, “ ‘Hapa’am odeh et Hashem—This time, I shall thank Hashem’ and she called his name Yehudah.”
Yehudah is the progenitor of Mashiach.
Leah, with all her suffering and loneliness, managed to wholeheartedly thank Hashem and thus merit the spark of Mashiach.
So gratitude to Hashem ignites the spark of Mashiach.
It’s there inside of us.
There might be a lot of darkness and muck to scrape through to get to it.
But it’s definitely there.
May we all merit basking in a state of continuous gratitude.