Most of us like it when someone values us. It feels good to know when we are appreciated. And it is not because we have some exigent need to be recognized. Many gifted and talented people do amazing things and never seek recognition or fame, or attention. But being on the receiving side of someone being thankful for something we did is always a good feeling.

A simple way to thank someone in Hebrew is תּוֹדָה (todah) “thanks!” A verb that expresses “giving thanks” הוֹדָה (hodah) surfaces all over the Hebrew Bible. In a noun form, the term means “thanksgiving” and, more precisely, “a thanksgiving offering” (זֶבַח תּוֹדָה, zevach todah) in the context of worship. Because of this context, in English translations of biblical texts, the term may be rendered as “praise.”

In Ezra 3:11, the priests were singing as the foundations of the destroyed temple were being rebuilt. One group began, and another “responded in praises and thanksgivings to ADONAI” (וַיַּעֲנוּ בְּהַלֵּל וּבְהוֹדֹת לַיהוה, vaya’anu behallel uv’hodot LADONAI). Psalm 28:7 says, “my heart will rejoice and in my song I will thank you” (יַּעֲלֹז לִבִּי וּמִשִּׁירִי אֲהוֹדֶנּוּ, ya’aloz libi umishiri ahodenu). Expressing gratitude, giving thanks, and worshipping (praising) God are often interrelated activities in the Bible.

It’s important to know, however, that the basic root to which these Hebrew words are tied is יָדָה (yadah), and it means to “throw” or to “cast,” to “show” as if to “point” with an extended “hand” יָד (yad). These actions are all relational, but the idea of gratitude is not explicit in the root meaning itself. You have to dig a little deeper to see it. If speaking is considered, the root suggests the idea of “speaking forth,” “admitting,” or “confessing” In Proverbs 28:13, we are told that one who hides his transgression will not prosper, but “one who confesses (יָדָה, yadah) and abandons (them) will find mercy” (וּמוֹדֶה וְעֹזֵב יְרֻחָם, umodeh veozav yeruham). The theme of gratitude is not obvious in this verse, but in Hebrew, the idea of confession includes some form of thanksgiving.

The meaning of praise can be easily observed, but in order to see thanksgiving, we must actively imagine someone lifting hands in a motion of gratitude to see such a meaning. In Genesis 29:35, when Leah gave birth to her fourth son, she said, “It’s time to thank ADONAI” (הַפַּעַם אוֹדֶה אֶת־יהוה, hapa’am odeh ADONAI). And therefore, she named her son “Judah” (יְהוּדָה, Yehudah) because of her “gratitude” הוֹדָה (hodah). It just so happens, then, that the terms “Judeans” or “Jews” (יְהוּדִים, Yehudim) originates from the same root יָדָה (yadah) “thanksgiving.”

So, it turns out that a simple “thank you” is not so simple. So much more is implied in this short word if we explore its origins in ancient Hebrew. Images of hands being lifted up, offerings, confessions, and gratitude stemming from God’s blessings, from songs that flow from our hearts. Gratitude is a profound action, a fitting response to life circumstances.

Here is a thought. Consider expressing your gratitude to someone in your life today! Tap the image to see one of my favorite ways to send a pleasant surprise to people I appreciate and value.

If it's not your style, I am sure you will find a way that suits you best. :)