Soon it will be Thanksgiving, for many of us, our favorite American holiday.
Being thankful is at the heart of a spiritual life, focusing on gratitude for blessings of what goes well during the bustle of a busy day, in a world more conducive to noticing what is not to our liking.
Aches, pains, frustrations, disappointments, and missteps usually grab more of our energy than focus on parts of the day that are satisfying and rewarding. Instead of generating joy and happiness with all the good stuff going on, it is easier to overlook the positives and allow ourselves to be pulled down and drained by whatever goes wrong.
Jewishly, Thanksgiving is not a seasonal matter. It is “celebrated” every morning in the Siddur, our prayer book, in our reciting the “Birchot HaShachar”, a detailed litany of praises and utterances of appreciation for so much that is good in life, as we remind ourselves that, for the most part, what goes well in life is more the reality than what is wrong.
These blessings of appreciation provide a helpful and healthy list of what we could include as part of our gratitude on Thanksgiving Day.
What makes these blessing especially meaningful is that they reflect the fullest sense of what it means to be Jewish. The word “Jew”, from “Yehuda”/ “Judah” derives from the root “L’hodot”, to be thankful. Every time you say "todah", “Thank you” to someone, you are tapping into the root for being Jewish; to be “Jewish” is to be thankful!
Which of the following blessings of thankfulness help the most in encouraging you to be more positive about your journey through life?
They are found on pp. 103 and 104 in our Siddur Lev Shalem, and we do them at each Shabbat morning service. I even include some of them when leading one of my favorite services of the week, Sunday mornings with the children (to which adults are always invited!)
They flow in this order:
“Thank U (in daily context I think of God as U KNOW HU)…for enabling me to distinguish one moment from another, as in the difference between day and night.
Thank U for making me in your image, with the ability and respons-ability to choose freely to do good…or not
Thank U for making me free to choose my attitude about life
Thank U for making me “Yisrael”, a wrestling (or hugging) partner in relationship with U
Thank U for enabling me to overcome blindness to conditions in the world I otherwise might not see
Thank U for clothing me in modesty and not covering me up in deception
Thank U for freeing me from being knotted up in overwhelming stress
Thank U for enabling me to move, as in to rise up, in appreciation that most of my body is functioning okay
Thank U for the beauty and grandeur of this physical world, as the earth stretches over the water
Thank U for guiding me and being with me, enabling me to be at my best, with each step along my path in Life
Thank U for taking care of each and so many of my ongoing needs
Thank U for empowering me as Yisrael in being courageous in my partnership as a “wrestler” with U
Thank U for crowning me, as Yisrael, in a partnership of splendor and beauty
Thank U for giving me strength when I am physically or spiritually exhausted
Thank U for removing sleep from my eyes and slumber from my eyelids.”
These blessings come to a close with a paragraph reminding us of the importance of the contexts and people we choose to accompany us in life. It is expressed in the plural, in accentuating community:
May it be satisfying to U, God of our Ancestors, to guide us, through Your Torah, and that we be integrally connected with U in doing Your Mitzvot, actions and behavior in alignment with U. And do not bring us, neither to the hand of wrongdoing, nor error, nor inappropriate behavior, mistakes, imbalances, pushing buttons, nor 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 enable us to hold tight 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 in service to U. And give us today, and every day, contexts to be in a state of grace/graciousness, reflected in caring action/loving kindness, and compassion, in Your Eyes, and in the eyes of all who see us, and generate in all of us, caring actions/loving kindness. Baruch are U, Adonai (YHVH, Consciousness in Time), Who/HU renders caring action/loving kindnesses to God’s people Yisrael.
May the happiness and gratitude associated with Thanksgiving Day, this year, inspire us all to turn negatives to positives and transform the lives of us all and all our dear ones in the direction of a world rediscovering peace and wellness and wholeness.