As November arrives, many of our thoughts typically turn to pumpkin spiced lattes and Thanksgiving. This year, our fall celebrations may differ significantly from those in the past, but, hopefully, they will still connect us to the theme of gratitude and the imperative to give thanks. For those of us seeking paths toward thanks-giving, Judaism offers us several, as do the gracious among us throughout the rest of the world.
Every morning, we are offered the opportunity to give thanks for another day. The Modeh/Modah Ani is a twelve-word prayer that thanks G-d for restoring our soul after a night’s sleep so that we may continue writing our life’s story. We are offered blessings to recite over myriad foods so that we may have the words to acknowledge from whence this nourishment has come and blessings to offer over rainbows and the first blossoms of spring so that we have moments during which to reflect on the source of these delights. Judaism also commands us to give thanks after we have eaten so that, even once our hunger has abated and our thoughts about where to seek relief from it have passed, we continue to remember the source of our blessings and say the words to reflect our appreciation. Some call this “benching,” which is Yiddish, and others by the Hebrew name of this offering, the Birkat Hamazon, the Grace After Meals, but no matter what we call it, it’s all about giving thanks.
Outside of our liturgy and rituals, there are so many other ways to express our gratitude and to give thanks for all we have. One obvious, but nevertheless often overlooked avenue, is to thank someone for his or her kindness or the role they play in our lives. When is the last time we wrote a note or sent a text simply saying, “I’m so thankful for you!” During these days of social isolation, a call, a small card or email really isn’t a small thing at all. And, paying it forward is a wonderful way to thank the universe for the blessings we have, as is sharing our bounty with others. While many of us have more time on our hands these days than we ever might have anticipated, all we need is a moment of quiet to consider all of the people who make our lives worth living and a bit of creativity to find the perfect way to express our gratitude.
Thanksgiving is right around the corner, but it isn’t necessary to wait for a date on the calendar to give thanks. As our sage, Rabbi Hillel said, “If not now, when?” And, while we’re at it, thank you for all of the times you stopped during the year to read my messages and for letting me know you did!