When Leah’s fourth son is born, she names him Judah. In Hebrew, that’s Yehudah: gratitude.
Yehuda‘s name honours the miraculous way that things unfold in time. And Torah focuses on the miraculous way that Yehuda himself unfolds in time. We see his early misguided attempts to be a decent brother in a troubled family. And then, later, his later misguided attempts to protect his sons by tricking his daughter-in-law. We see how his daughter-in-law holds up a metaphorical mirror for him. Finally, he can see how he’s been bumbling through his relationships. And then we see how, as a mature man, he expresses empathy and love. And how he risks his life in the name of those values.
We could say that, through a series of historical accidents, our people’s name is gratitude. The tribe of Yehuda settled in Southern Canaan. The name of the Southern Israelite kingdom became Yehuda. The name of the self-governing province controlled by Persia and later Rome was Yehud. Twenty-five hundred years later, we still call ourselves Yehudim. In English, that’s Jews.
Or we could say that, through deep spiritual insight, we choose to call ourselves Yehudim—the grateful ones. Through the spiritual practice of gratitude we remember moments for which we are grateful. If we can remember those moments—of wonder, peace, love, insight, abundance—when we felt supported by God, family, and friends, then we know that such moments can come again. Gratitude empowers us with the strength and courage to face difficulties. Gratitude leads to renewal. May that be the story of our life!