“I acknowledge You, for I am awesomely, wondrously fashioned; wondrous are Your works, and my soul knows it well.” (Psalms 139:14) The Talmud (Niddah 31a) offers numerous explanations of this verse, including the following: R. Joseph gave the following exposition: What is the purport of the Scriptural text, “I will give thanks unto You, O Lord; for though You were angry with me, Your anger is turned away, and
You comfort me.” (Isaiah 12:1) The text alludes to two men who set out on a trading expedition when a thorn got into [the foot of] one of them who (having been compelled by the accident to interrupt his journey,) began to blaspheme and to revile. After a time, however, when he heard that his friend’s ship had sunk into the sea he began to laud and praise God for saving his life through the accident. Hence it is written, ‘Your anger is turned away, and You comfort me.’ This is indeed in line with what R. Eleazar stated: What is implied by the Scriptural text, “Who does wondrous things alone; and blessed be His glorious name for ever?” (Psalms 72:18) Even the person for whom a miracle is performed is unaware of the miracle.
Rabbi Shmuel Yitzchak Hillman (Or HaYashar – Zeraim-Moed) teaches that King David teaches us in this verse to maintain our awareness of God’s wonders even when we are suffering. If we recall the wonders, we will realize that even what seems to be bad, may turn around to save us from something worse.
The Netziv (D’var Ha’eimek) takes this one step further by focusing on “my soul knows it well.” King David is rejoicing in our wondrous ability to understand how what was bad became good, even our mistakes.
The Chashmonaim had a sense of wondrous good even when their situation was desperate. They understood that even the moment when the Syrian-Greeks were insisting that Israel stop observing Shabbat, Rosh Chodesh, and Brit Milah, and that Jews offer sacrifices to the Greek gods, was pregnant with possibilities for great accomplishments. It was their sense of wonder that allowed them to live wondrously.
We cannot wait until Chanukah to celebrate the wonders that were. We can begin Chanukah now by celebrating with King David and the Chasmonaim the wonders that will be.
I suggest that we use the blessing of Asher Yatzar to nurture our appreciation of “I acknowledge You, for I am awesomely, wondrously fashioned; wondrous are Your works, and my soul knows it well.” I am practicing reciting this verse immediately after Asher Yatzar.