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Updated: Dec 9, 2023

For the past month or two, Psalm 92, the psalm for Shabbat, somehow slipped out of our Kabbalat Shabbat davvening. I asked around about this and discovered that it was not out of some great strategic initiative, it had kind of just happened- please turn from page ____ to page ____. So last night, we were treated to the beautiful voice of Emily Kaye Geraci chanting, “Tov l’hodot L’Adonai- it is good to give thanks to God.” And I turned to Rabbi Chernow and said, “We should have saved that for next week!” She smiled indulgently at me . . . as she often does, and then she laughed—-yes- it IS good to give thanks, and how nice that we have a whole holiday when our entire country is focused on this essential mitzvah of “hakarat ha-tov,” that is, acknowledging the good.

It is good to give thanks, and it is especially good for us to be thankful. Thanksgiving is a quintessentially Jewish activity- after all, does not our tradition require that we say 100 blessings each day? Think about it. . . One hundred times a day we are to stop for just the briefest of moments and thank God for the smallest of blessings- the sweet smell of a beautiful flower, a thunderstorm, the clothing we wear and the food we eat. How much richer our lives would be if we really incorporated this practice in our daily lives? Imagine for a moment what life would be like if we could massively shift the balance of our conversation from whining, however innocuous, to reminding ourselves of the pervasive blessings we enjoy with no acknowledgement and which we totally take for granted. Imagine if we stopped to notice all the gifts showered on us, in the words of our siddur, morning, noon, and night. We would walk around in an ecstatic state of awe.

As a rabbi, I’m in the pain and suffering business. Week after week, I am really overwhelmed at the immense challenges faced by the heroic members of Temple Chai. I am not standing here naively preaching, “Don’t worry, be happy.” Week after week I am astonished at the triumph of the human spirit bearing burdens that could easily crush mind, body, and soul.

But I was inspired and challenged by a small little book I read recently by Rabbi Zelig Pliskin, entitled, simply, Thank You. Pliskin recommends that the more we act grateful, the more we will be grateful. He suggests this mantra- “I am a grateful person with a lot to be grateful for.” The more we look for things to appreciate, the more we will find them. He challenges us with this question- “For what am I grateful RIGHT NOW?” Even in the most difficult times, with a little effort we can find something for which we might say thank you.

May we be blessed each day to find something for which we can be thankful, and in this way every day can be for us a day of Thanksgiving.

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