February 2012: Gratitude

I have been thinking a lot recently about gratitude. Gratitude, gratefulness, thankfulness; whatever you want to call it, it seems that there is not enough of it in our society. The in-your-face consumerism that surrounds us creates a constant feeling of inferiority. You have an LCD television? You need an LED. You have high definition cable service? You need 3D. It is simply an unending cycle of needless waste that leads us from one store to the next and warps our sense of reality.

I propose we try turning this around for just one week. Instead of saying I wish I could afford that new car, say I am so very glad I can afford to heat my house this cold winter. Instead of looking at every new electronic device and dreaming over which one will allow you to consume more media faster and easier, say I am so very grateful that I can afford shelter for my family. Instead of lamenting over all the restaurants you want to eat at, give thanks for the food you are able to purchase, bring home, and prepare.

When we had that early snowstorm and the associated extended power outage, I quickly realized how lucky we were. Sure, we had no power for several days; but we had a generator to operate our well pump and refrigerator, we had a woodstove that kept the house warm, we had a camping stove and barbeque grill to cook on, and we had enough resources to be able to share with friends who had less. Instead of bemoaning our situation, I was very grateful that we were safe, warm, and fed.

It is tradition that Shabbat is not only a day of rest, but also a day of gratitude. We praise G-d without making requests, and during the Amidah we offer personal prayers of thanks. Amongst all of the things that I have to be grateful and thankful for, I always make sure to include a silent message of thanks for the Temple and those that provide for it. I know we already mention this publicly during the Prayer for the Congregation in the Torah service, but this is felt in a different way. This is thanking G-d for bringing these people to us in our time of need. Whether that means bringing a person to fill an officer position or having someone show up with a checkbook when the coffers are low, it is appropriate to recognize that there are no accidents in this world and there is a reason people seem to show up at the right time and in the right place. Public prayer is based on words; personal prayer is for those feelings that cannot be conveyed with words. It takes a lot of special people to make this Temple operate so smoothly, and somehow words does not seem to aptly acknowledge them and G-d’s role in sustaining them.

I hope you are able to try this experiment with me for a week, and reframe life in terms of gratitude and thanks. There are certainly challenging moments in everyone’s life, but there is always something we can be grateful for.

Evan Wyner TBS President