Soon Thanksgiving will be upon you, the now "official" start of the holiday season. Of course, Jewishly, last month we concluded our own holiday period, with Sukkot, Jewish Thanksgiving, climaxed by Simchat Torah, soulful thanks for the wisdom by which to live.
Giving thanks is a key to an effective spiritual life style. It is noticing habitually how life is going well, even when it is not. Aches, pains, frustrations, disappointments, and missteps usually grab more of your energy than focus on how well you are doing and parts of the day that are satisfying and rewarding. What dulls the senses and distances people from spiritual experience is assuming all that goes well and allowing themselves to live a day and even every day only noticing the blemishes and upsets. Instead of generating joy and happiness with all the good stuff going on, they move through those opportunities mindlessly and without appreciation and allow themselves to be pulled down and drained by whatever goes wrong.
Thanksgiving is not a seasonal matter. It starts every morning in the Siddur, the Jewish “order” for reflection, known as the prayer book. A visitor at a recent Bar Mitzvah gave me an opportunity to write out the early morning blessings of awareness and appreciation. With her permission, I am including that interchange, which results in sharing with you a way to understand the “Birchot HaShachar”, a detailed litany of praises, blessing and utterances of appreciation for all that is good in life, energizing you to make the day a good one.
The interchange continued after I sent what she requested, and my response to her lament, about what can go wrong in the Jewish world, is something I will save for a future bulletin. Now the exchange, which I hope will provide food for thought (more than turkey) for your Thanksgiving.
I was with my Dad at Natan's Bar Mitzvah this Shabbat, and I found the sermon and the service to be very uplifting. I enjoyed it very much. I especially enjoyed the Thanksgiving prayer from page 147. I have heard and said this prayer often, but never quite with the understanding and connection I felt from the English translation you said as the prayer was being recited. I wonder if it is possible to have you send me the words you spoke…. I would really appreciate it…
Thank you for such kind words and for taking the time to share them!
What I am translating in the plural is actually written in the singular (until we get to the paragraph on page 148), and very personal, but in a community setting, I described it in plural to include us all. It is actually the opportunity/ task of each one of us to make this experience of awareness uniquely our own.
Here are the Birchot HaShachar:
Thank You/U (my name for God in secular/everyday parlance is U KNOW HU)…for enabling us to distinguish one moment from another, as in the difference between day and night.
Thank U… for making us in your image, with the ability and respons-ability to choose freely to do good…or not…
…For making us free to do so…
…For making us wrestling/hugging partners in relationship with U, as in Yisrael…
…For opening the eyes of in-sight….
…For clothing us in modesty….
…For freeing us from stress…
…For enabling us to move, as in to rise up, (so that we might praise and thank U)
…For the beauty and grandeur of the physical world, as in the earth stretched over the waters…
…For taking care of each and so many of our ongoing needs…
…For guiding us and being with us each and every step of the way….
…For imbuing us, as wrestling/hugging partners with U, (Yisrael), with courage
…For adorning us, as Yisrael, with beauty and splendor…
…For giving the exhausted strength…
Thank U for removing the sleep from our eyes and the slumber from our eyelids. May it be satisfying and desirous to U to guide and regulate us, in and through Your Torah, that we live and function by (be “glued to”) Your Mitzvot, actions and behavior in alignment with U. And don’t bring us to the hand of wrongdoing, error or inappropriate behavior, mistakes, imbalances, pushing buttons, and willful mischief. And don’t allow the Yetzer Ra, the inclination to do bad/mischief, to rule or govern us. . And distance us from a bad person and from a bad friend/neighbor. And have us hold fast to (be “glued to”) the Yetzer Tov, the inclination to do good and generate good doings. And harness/control our inclinations, both of them, to work for and be in service to U. And give today, and every day, as contexts to be in a state of grace/graciousness, caring action/loving kindness, and compassion, in Your Eyes, and in the eyes of all who see us, and render for us all, caring actions/loving kindnesses. Baruch/treasured are U, Adonai (YHVH, Consciousness in Time), Who/HU renders caring action/loving kindnesses to His/HU’s people Yisrael.
Thank you, again … for your lovely comments of appreciation and your interest in the words I shared, and do share, on Shabbat.
My prayers and best wishes are with you.
All the best,