Rabbi Lief’s Message: November 2016

 Giving Thanks

In the Book of Job, the title character loses everything he values in life: his wealth, his property, his health, and even his children, and yet he remains upbeat. Job says, “Adonai natan, v’Adonai lakach; y’hi shem Adonai m’vorach,” “The Lord gives, the Lord takes away; blessed be the name of the Lord.” Other than at funerals, we rarely give this famous quote a second thought. We consider it only in the context of our sadness at the loss of a loved one, but what about the myriad of blessings in our own lives that we all too often take for granted? Are you able to read these words, with or without glasses or contacts? A miracle. Have you eaten in the last twenty-four hours? A miracle. Are you living under a roof, regardless of your rent or mortgage payments? A miracle. Are you alive today? To borrow from Fiddler on the Roof, “That is a miracle, too.”

As our Religious School students recently learned, in our morning worship liturgy, we read a long list of blessings under the heading, “Nisim b’chol yom,” “Miracles of everyday living.” When we thank God for “opening the eyes of the blind,” “clothing the naked,” and “freeing the captive,” we’re not talking about Lasik surgery, a sale at Goodwill, and prisoners out on bail. Instead, these blessings are to be recited as we open our eyes each morning, get dressed, and get going. We should consider ourselves miraculously able to see, able to have clothes to wear, and able to move freely on our own. Far too often we think only of the things that are wrong in our lives, the things that need to be fixed, and the problems that threaten our future, instead of how fortunate we are for the things that are good, the things that are working, and the successes we’re enjoying right now. While doom and gloom make for juicier political advertising and better ratings on cable television news, gratitude and appreciation make for a happier existence at home.

This month, we approach the holiday of Thanksgiving, an American celebration modeled by our Pilgrim forebears on our own Jewish celebration of Sukkot. As Psalm 118 reminds us, “Hodu l’Adonai ki tov, ki l’olam chasdo,” “Give thanks to the Lord for it is good, His love is everlasting.” I encourage you to give thanks for all that is good in your lives. I feel blessed to have a home, to have transportation and food, to have a loving family, and, with an election upcoming, to be a citizen of the greatest nation in the world. I am deeply blessed to have such a wonderful wife and adorable daughters who love me unconditionally and I love them unconditionally, too. Look around and see how blessed you already are and then take the time to share those blessings with others. Put your blessings to use by being a blessing unto others. Share your bounty with those in need, exercise your freedom by going to vote, and appreciate your loved ones with an extra hug and some kind words of thanks. Becca, Leah, Ellie, and I wish you and your families a season of open eyes to the blessings in your lives, a full dinner table worthy of sharing with others, and a renewed recognition of how good it is to be thankful.

Happy Thanksgiving!