The idea of expressing gratitude should be in the lexicon of every human being. It is a humbling and powerful approach to living. This notion is certainly not owned by one religion, but since this is a blog on Judaism, I would like to express it from a Jewish point of view.
If we open our eyes and hearts and minds, we will see very quickly that there is always common ground between different people and different religions. We all basically, at our core, want the same things… to love and be loved… to be protected and safe… and to be able to pursue and hopefully find happiness and joy.
Last week I wrote about the “Three T’s”… Teshuvah (Repentance or a Return to who we want to be… becoming or returning to the best version of ourselves), Tzedakah (Charity… or more specifically, loving-kindness), and Tefilah (Prayer or connection to Hashem… and then service… recognizing that there is a higher power and a higher purpose and giving ourselves to that.) This a great blueprint for living!
The Indian culture has a similar list… Seva (Giving yourself in service), Sadhana (Walking your spiritual path of awareness) and Satsang (Sharing the truth in a group of the like-minded).
The idea from all of these religions and cultures is to always be an individual… to act and take on responsibilities for yourself… to have a personal and unique connection and relationship with G-d… or whatever positive, higher source you may believe in… and… and this is vital… to also be part of a community… a culture… to give back to your family and friends and those around you. To take care of and be taken care of.
In Judaism, you express gratitude from the moment you wake up… before you even move out of bed… with the Modeh Ani, a prayer thanking Hashem for returning your soul to you. Talk about starting your day off on the right foot and getting out on the right side of the bed!
In fact, Judaism teaches us to express gratitude from that waking moment to the moment we go to sleep… and at every step in between. We say prayers and give thanks for our food and meals, say a blessing over our children on Shabbat… and we have the Bedtime Shema before we go to sleep, where we forgive and move on from things others may have done to us that day.
Rabbi Denbo taught me to also express gratitude before going into prayer. It’s part of a prep I do before wrapping Tefillin, that includes saying the Six Constant Mitzvot, speaking the Seven Steps to Trusting Hashem and then speaking aloud the things I am grateful for. It makes my prayers more focused and meaningful.
Judaism is often criticized for being too rigid and too much about laws and things you HAVE to do… Okay, perhaps and obviously that comes from people on the outside, looking only at certain ideas and practices… but how amazing is it, to be able to put your life in a more valuable and positive perspective each and every day?! To know you are living or should be living with a higher purpose.
Thursday we will celebrate the very American holiday of Thanksgiving… and aside from overstuffing ourselves and ignoring certain historical elements that could taint the holiday, it is a great reminder to stop and be gracious… and grateful. I love Thanksgiving… and I will miss being with my family in New Jersey and enjoying the Fall foliage… NOT the winter blast they seem to be pummeled with… but I do miss the East Coast.
Luckily I have amazing and wonderful friends and family out here, and for that I am very grateful.
So here’s a thought… and I need to really stick to it, as well… Let us not limit ourselves to one day a year to do these things… We can express and live gratitude every single day. Give of ourselves… support causes and charities… take care of our loved ones and friends… and yes, take care of and be grateful for ourselves… and TO OURSELVES! It all starts with us… We must connect within and all around… to our souls and to Hashem… for we are all one… Echad.
And with that said… a Todah Rabah shout out…
I am thankful for Hashem… for my life and health… my parents and brother… my daughter… my nieces and sister-in-law… my cousins… my family… those here and gone… Grandparents, uncles, aunts, and so on… my relationships, past and present… here and gone… my friends and my dog. I am grateful for those who have moved in and out of my life and who have shaped me and taught me valuable lessons, both tough and tender.
I am grateful for my teachers and mentors… Rabbis Aryeh Markman, Az Aharon and especially Rabbi Shlomo Seidenfeld, a friend and teacher who supports and challenges me, and has shown me how faith can enlighten, empower and improve one’s life.
I am grateful to AISH and the JMI Men’s Trip to Israel… and to all the new friends and true brothers I have because of it. Men can be open and emotional and deeply caring and connected. It is powerful and significant! I am grateful to Rob for joining me on this and many journeys… to David and Jordan for getting me to wrap and really understand the power and beauty behind it… for Julian, for opening up his home and mind and pushing me to learn, for Jonah for being my guide in so many areas… for Sal, for setting such a learned example… for Jeff, for keeping me in the fold with a remarkable generosity and kindness… for The Discovery Class with Rabbi Yitz Jacobs and for the lectures of Rabbi Shalom Denbo and David Sacks.
To Howard Witkin, for the incredible insight into the Pirkei Avos, life in general… and to some great booze and Jeff’s Kosher food. To Josh for coming along with openness and skepticism.
To Rabbi Paul Kipnes and Cantor Doug Cotler and Rabbi Julia for the warm and open Shul they continue to grow and the education they gave my daughter and myself.
To Chabad and the Rabbis there who educate and inspire me… Rabbi Shlomo Bistritzky, Rabbi Moshe Bryski for getting me my Tefillin and and especially Rabbi Avi Rabin, whom I am lucky enough to study with almost every Wednesday. We learn from each other, my friend… and you make me feel worthy of the “Reb Marc” nickname.
To Jason Katz, my phone teacher from Partners in Torah… We learn and discuss life and politics and everything in between. And to Abraham Niyazof, my Chabad phone teacher who I need to reconnect with. Thank you for taking me through the Siddur.
I am so grateful to Ben Elterman for being on this “literal” journey with me… and for his insight… You are wise beyond your years. And I am grateful for you, the readers of this blog, who inspire and challenge us with your comments and thoughts.
The danger of lists, is that you may forget someone individually… and if I did, please forgive me in advance… and know that it was unintentional.
I want you all to know… those who may read this and those who don’t… that I am thankful and grateful and appreciative.
To all of you I say, Todah Rabah… Thank you very much. Give thanks whenever you can… I will try to do that myself. I wish you all a safe and wonderful holiday… and Shalom. A warm hello and welcome… peace to start us off, peace while we are together and peace to you as we part… always in peace… always…