Tachanun 5

כִּי אֵין בַּמָּוֶת זִכְרֶךָ, בִּשְׁאוֹל מִי יוֹדֶה לָּךְ

(Besides, what would be gained by my death) for I will not mention You in death, (and) in the grave who can thank You (but if You heal me, I will thank You). [T’hilim 6:6]

This pasuk completes the initial grouping of p’sukim in which David HaMelech speaks of his illness. David pleads for his life in the previous p’sukim. In this last pasuk, he explains why he wants to live so badly. Both in this pasuk and in the last pasuk of T’hilim 30 (“Mizmor, Shir Chanukas HaBayis”), David expresses the very same sentiment as to why he so passionately desires to continue living:

לְמַעַן יְזַמֶּרְךָ כָבוֹד וְלֹא יִדֹּם, ה' אֱ-לֹהַי לְעוֹלָם אוֹדֶךָּ

So that my soul should sing to You (to let everyone know that You forgive sinners who repent) and not be silenced (by death) – Hashem, Who takes special care of me, I will thank You forever. [T’hilim 30:13]

David desires to live in order to thank Hashem. The Malbim, on the wordsבִּשְׁאוֹל מִי יוֹדֶה לָּךְ (“in the grave, who can thank You” – T’hilim 6:6) writes: “…which is the purpose of the creation that You (Hashem) created to bestow goodness to those who exist so that they will thank You.” The Ramban makes a similar statement at the end of Parshas Bo.

In the parshiyos of VaEschanan and Eikev in Sefer D’varim, we find multiple p’sukim that state that Hashem wants us to fear Him, fulfill His mitzvos, do what is good and proper in His Eyes…SO THAT He can bestow goodness upon us. Hashem created us to bestow goodness upon us eternally.

Where else do we find that thanking Him for His goodness is so primary that David expresses that as the entire reason he wants to continue living? We will cite but a few examples from our tefilos, though there are many more.

The pasuk we have previously quoted – at the end of “Mizmor, Shir Chanukas HaBayis” – is one. There, David himself expresses exactly the same desire to live to thank Hashem.

Next, in “Hodu,” we recite the following pasuk:

וְאִמְרוּ הוֹשִׁיעֵנוּ אֱ-לֹהֵי יִשְׁעֵנוּ וְקַבְּצֵנוּ וְהַצִּילֵנוּ מִן הַגּוֹיִם לְהֹדוֹת לְשֵׁם קָדְשֶׁךָ לְהִשְׁתַּבֵּחַ בִּתְהִלָּתֶךָ

And (now, Yisrael), daven (every day) that the G-d of our salvation should save us and gather us (from the four corners of the world) and rescue us from the nations, SO THAT we should be able to thank Your Holy Name publicly and be glorified in Your praise (for, the greater that Hashem is, the greater is His chosen nation). [Divrei HaYamim I 16:35]

We are stating that the reason we want to be freed from galus is SO THAT we can thank Hashem.

Lastly, at the end of the brachah immediately before Shema, we say:

וְקֵרַבְתָּנוּ לְשִׁמְךָ הַגָּדול סֶלָה. בֶּאֱמֶת לְהודות לְךָ וּלְיַחֶדְךָ בְּאַהֲבָה

And (at Har Sinai) You brought us close to Your great Name, forever, with the truth – the Torah – SO THAT we give thanks to You and proclaim Your Oneness (Shema) with love.

Hashem brought us close to Him SO THAT we can thank Him.

The question is: Why? Does Hashem need us to thank Him? Why is thanking Hashem at the core of the purpose of life? It is obvious that it is for OUR benefit. But how so?

Ahavas Hashem is, according to many Rishonim, the highest level of service to Hashem that we can attain. Love of Hashem is the last “gate” (chapter) in sefer Chovos HaL’vavos. At the very beginning of this last chapter, he writes “(Love of Hashem) is the ultimate level and the highest degree to which those devoted to G-d’s service may attain.” The Rambam, as well, writes that one should make the purpose of every part of the soul to align to one purpose: to love Hashem. He also writes that one should perform mitzvos because of his love for the Master of all, Who commanded him to do so. That is “lishmah” according to the Rambam.

Many Rishonim (Chovos HaL’vavos, the Smag, the SmakSefer Chasidim) write that the road to loving Hashem is through recognizing His goodness and kindness, in the world and in our own lives, and expressing our thanks to Him.

David HaMelech writes (T’hilim 119:62) that he got up at midnight to thank Hashem. It is known that the Chafetz Chaim would spend a long time in the middle of the night thanking Hashem profusely and reciting Nishmas with immense fervor and tears.

Hashem created the world to bestow goodness upon us. Perhaps we can posit that the reason Hashem wants us to thank Him is because that allows us to attain the highest level of loving Hashem (which “enables” Hashem to bestow more goodness and “enables” Him to fulfill His purpose for the world). It allows us to attain great “closeness” to Hashem, which is His desire.

Perhaps that is why we have all these sources that indicate that the reason for living is to thank Hashem.

[All translations above are from the Pathway to Prayer Siddur, by Rabbi Mayer Birnbaum.]