Recognizing the good in our lives every day makes every day of living more rewarding | Opinion –

Posted By on November 27, 2021

Rabbi Michael Shields| Your Turn

Whenever one of the great sages of Judaism, Rabbi Menachem Mendel of Kotzk, would replace a pair of worn-out shoes, he would neatly wrap up the old ones in newspaper before placing them in the trash and he would declare: "How can I simply toss away such a fine pair of shoes that have served me so well these past years!?"

Perhaps, some of us had the same affinity and sense of gratitude for our first car, no matter how much a klunker it was.

The Hebrew term for gratitude is Hakarat Hatov, which means, literally, "recognizing the good." Sometimes those trusty, well-trodden shoes are tossed casually to the side, not recognized for the good they brought to our life. Practicing gratitude means being fully aware of the good that is already yours.

Gratitude (hakarat ha tov) also asks us to honor that which is. We dont become captive to what has already happened in our lives, nor do we solely look to the future. A text from my tradition called Pirkei Avot, says: Who is rich? He who rejoices in his lot.

Judaism has weathered a great deal of heartache and trauma, as a religion, a community, and a culture. Despite that, the traditions and teachings still promote gratitude. We cannot fall into the trap of being dissatisfied with what we lack. A grateful spirit challenges us to honestly account for what we do have. When we do account in this way, we recognize and acknowledge the blessings which are part of our lives.

The Talmud, a collection of Jewish wisdom, teaches that: A person is obligated to recite one hundred blessings every day. Certainly, we have all had days in which it is difficult to identify even one blessing amidst the tzuris (trouble) we have encountered. If we choose to build the habit of reciting a blessing of gratitude every time we encounter even the smallest thankful moment, we can find satisfaction even in the midst of great hardship.

As we approach Thanksgiving, we can remind ourselves to be thankful when we catch the green light (not the orange light), when the rain nourishes our garden, or our child makes it home on the bus as usual. When gratitude is a living reality embedded within our hearts and minds, we constantly renew our vision and our hope.

Hope is desperately needed in this time of ongoing tumult. Sometimes, hope begins with a simple act or spoken word of gratitude. We start small and expand thankfulness and hope in the weeks ahead.

The first words that someone of the Jewish faith is supposed to say in the morning upon waking are: modeh ani, I am grateful. Waking up in the morning is not a given. In some small way, to wake in the morning is to be reborn. Nothing is to be taken for granted, certainly not life itself. We give thanks for the gifts we have been granted.

Wishing all people of goodwill across our Greater Tallahassee region a good Thanksgiving holiday. As the Jewish community celebrates Hanukkah beginning on November 28th, we send blessings of peace, joy, and good health to our neighbors preparing for their sacred Christmas season. May we all be renewed by connections and blessings we share.

Michael Shields is the Rabbi at Tallahassees Temple Israel.


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Recognizing the good in our lives every day makes every day of living more rewarding | Opinion -

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