The matriarch Leah first came up with the name Yehudah when she named her fourth son. The meaning of the name comes from the root meaning of “to give thanks.” The Torah records Leah’s explanation of this name which was given in the context of the birth of her prior children: “This time, I will thank G-d.” This time, said Leah, I have to give extra thanks – meaning that the birth of this baby was different in some way than the others. What was special about this newborn?
The commentaries agree that this baby was special to Leah because this was one more child than she expected to have – but there is, however, no consensus as to what precisely was the basis of her extra thanks. Leah misinterpreted a prophecy and thought that she would give birth to a maximum of three children. One commentary explains that the extra thanks was due to Leah looking at this extra birth as a miracle – she was so sure that her childbearing was over that the birth of this fourth baby was miraculous. A second explanation takes the position that Leah did not look at this birth as a special miracle, but rather as a natural occurrence. The extra thanks was due, however, to this birth’s exceeding her standard expectation. The prophecy said that she, along with Jacob’s other wives, would only have three children. The good fortune that she had of receiving a gift that was a step above what was typical led her to increase her expressions of gratitude toward the Almighty.
These two explanations represent two important motivations to deepen our relationship with the Almighty. First of all, we have to see the miracles, the daily miracles that are all around us. Secondly, even though life is never perfect, we must look at our circumstances and appreciate the many blessings that we do in fact enjoy. The name Yehuda serves as a reminder to cultivate these feelings and focus them towards God in appreciation of all He does for us.