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What We Are Thankful For


As we prepare to celebrate Thanksgiving, we want not only to enjoy turkey, but to take note of all the things that we are grateful for. I would love to have your responses and ideas on this question.

We offer thanks, O God, for all of the blessings that we have. At this time of year when we celebrate Thanksgiving Day, we are being reminded to take time out and remember the benefits we enjoy that are so easy to take for granted.

In this Thanksgiving week, we thank God for our parents. We thank God for the ways they have nurtured us and supported us through the long years and trying times of growing up. As a congregational rabbi in Mobile, I see mothers and fathers who are constantly in motion, in order to give their children the best possible experience. We thank God for those parents who can teach their children the "three P's" of practice, patience, and perseverance. We say an extra prayer if we've had parents who were able to nurture us not only with love, but with discipline and competence. Even if our parents were dysfunctional, they gave us life. And in the overwhelming majority of cases, they did their best--and that's something to be grateful for as well.

In this Thanksgiving week, we thank God for laughter. Whether we are chuckling or chortling or giggling or even cackling, laughter is more than a physical action of the diaphragm. Laughter is a concrete way of showing our approval and pleasure and amusement. We could think of laughter as an audible expression of excitement as well as an inward feeling of joy. While there are always serious parts of life to overcome, we are thankful for life's many humorous moments, summoning warm, nostalgic remembrances.

In this Thanksgiving week, we thank God for tears. Sometimes we don't have anything to say, and we don't really know how we feel. And then, suddenly, there are these tears that form in the corners of our eyes. I'm particularly grateful for them because I have dry eyes, making it harder for me to form tears than it is for many other people. So, while I hope for the secretion of tears to lubricate my eye, I also pray for the coming of tears to express joy and relief, sadness and despair, and, hopefully, most of all, love and devotion.

In this Thanksgiving week, we thank God for wisdom. Wisdom is the quality of having enough experience, knowledge, and good judgment to be able to navigate this path we call life. Aristotle argues that wisdom should be pursued for its own sake, and for many years I tried to follow his advice. But gradually over the years I have come to accept that wisdom is most useful when it gives us both a perspective on the broad scheme of things, and also help in successfully dealing with the minutiae of daily life. We offer thanksgiving for our disposition to find the truth coupled with ability to apply this disposition to make the compromises that are a necessary part of life.

In this Thanksgiving week, we thank God for courage. As a rabbi, I teach Mussar, or Jewish ethical teachings that help us to understand our character and how to strengthen it. One character trait that I think is incredibly important is the ability to do something meaningful that is at the same time frightening to us. When we can show strength in the face of fear—or pain or grief—we really set an example for our friends, our family, our community.

In this Thanksgiving week, we offer thanksgiving for our pets. Our pets, particularly our dogs, offer us a wonderful illustration of unconditional love. Our congregation in Mobile just held its second annual pet blessing ceremony, which gave us an opportunity to show how much we love our animal companions. We thanked God for allowing us to form bonds with our pets and to remember how all living beings are interrelated in Creation, sharing a common responsibility for one another's well-being.

We pray for good health. Most of us are of an age where we've had health scares of one sort or another. Perhaps we are suffering from various illnesses, perhaps serious ones. It may be hard to see the benefits we've gotten from the tremendous advances in medical care and scientific research. I personally am grateful for the caring and devoted care that I've received in Alabama over the past year. Just this morning my eye doctor called me twice to make sure that I was getting the best eye drops that might help me to feel more comfortable. While we tend to hear of the cases where medical care goes horribly wrong, we thank God this Thanksgiving week for both the technical achievements and personal devotion of our country's medical profession.

As we prepare to celebrate Thanksgiving, we want not only to enjoy turkey, but to take note of all the things that we are grateful for.

We offer thanks, O God, for all of the blessings that we have. At this time of year when we celebrate Thanksgiving Day, we are being reminded to take time out and remember the benefits we enjoy that are so easy to take for granted.


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