Years ago I came to a simple realization: An adult is someone who realizes that his parents were right when they made him do his homework, punished him when he misbehaved and expected him to live up to his responsibilities.
Adults, it seems, are in short supply these days. Not just the kind of adults who appreciate their parents but also those who relate properly to God.
Not for nothing do we call Him our Father in Heaven. Like a parent who provides a supportive environment, guidance and sustenance for a child, God provides us with life, health and opportunity. Ever second of our existence is directly dependent on His beneficience. As our Sages note, if He were to remove his protection and support from us for even an instant, we would cease to exist.
But that's just the basics, something incumbent on everything alive in the universe. The Jewish nation, however, has an even closer tie with God because of His kindness. Remember that we were slaves in Egypt and that only as a result of His intervention in history were we able to leave and become a nation on our own. The terms of the intervention were clearly spelled out as well: accept God's law, His holy Torah, as the guiding post of our lives. When He opened the gates of Egypt, we left and as a result accepted upon ourselves the Torah for all time.
This is perhaps why the second tochachah, the one in Devarim, ends with the predication that the Jews who survive all the listed tribulations will ultimately return to Egypt as slaves. The only reason we came out was to receive the Torah. The tochachah befell us because of our refusal to hold up our side of the bargain. Given that our freedom was contigent on observance of God's perfect Law, and that we failed to hold up our end, is it any wonder He would wind up sending us back there?
Appreciating all this, however, requires an adult frame of mind, the one that sees the good and bad coming from the parental figure in a relationship and realizes that the bad is really good but only perceived as being the opposite due to the intellectual limitations of the child. Lacking an adult frame of mind, a person becomes immersed in selfishness. He is entitled to the good and should be shielded from the bad by the parental figure without any reciprocal responsibilities on his part. This is the attitude that makes children what they are.
It's also the intellectual attitude of Western society these days.
Consider, for example, this article from The National Post. A U.S. senator apparently attempted to sue God in court:
The senator was attempting to obtain an injunction against God to prevent him or her, from "committing acts of violence such as tornados and earthquakes."
How typical of petty secular thought. Tornados and earthquakes come from God and He must be stopped from doing it. How dare He commit injustice in this world! But when it comes to waking up in the morning and seeing a beautiful sunrise, when one walks down the street and feels no pain in one's limbs or chest, when one eats a good meal which is uneventfully digested, well God's nowhere to be found there! After all, we deserve all that. It's coming to us. Why feel gratitude for it at all?
At this time of year, as we sit in our sukkahs surrounded by the glory of His world, we should all take a few moments to reflect on what God has given us. How much do we have? And have we expressed ourselves adequately to Him to give thanks for it? Because one cannot take anything for granted.