"Who is rich? He who is content with his lot." - In Pirkeh Avot (Ethics of Our Fathers)
Being grateful is a Jewish value. At this time of Thanksgiving, when we gather with family and friends, we offer blessings for what we are
grateful for. It is easy to get caught up in the
terrible things that are currently happening in our world. But for one day, we surround ourselves with those we love, or at least those we choose to be with, and we offer thanks.
In Judaism, we offer a blessing before we begin to eat, which is easy to do when we’re hungry. However, we also say Birkat Hamazon - the blessing after the meal – another way of saying ‘thank you’ or showing gratitude for the food that was
received This blessing takes extra effort because we have already satisfied our hunger and received what we wanted. Saying “thank you” after receiving a gift means taking that extra step.
It’s the same with our world. It’s easy to be grateful when you’ve gotten what you’ve asked for or received what you wanted. But to be grateful when the world seems to be facing a scary time – that takes extra effort as well. And yet, that’s what Judaism teaches us to do. By practicing gratitude for the little things in life –we practice being grateful.
When we are grateful, we can recognize the beauty of God’s world. Thanking God for the little things, our health, our families, the sunshine outside, gives us the ability to continue to thank God for the little things when big things happen or circumstances don’t go our way. Judaism can provide this discipline which can greater enhance the quality of our lives. And it can sustain us through life’s tribulations. Studies have been done over the years, showing the health benefits of showing gratitude on a daily basis, not only around Thanksgiving time. Making the daily effort to practice counting our blessings and remaining grateful for all we have and have not received can help us to be joyous and
happy. And in this way, we can stay healthier, strive to attain a heart of gratitude and a soul of contentment and live a life of higher purpose.