Congregation Emeth’s Year of Living Jewishly –
Mitzvah of the Week*: Gratitude – Hikarat Hatov
Who is rich? One who is happy with what one has, as it says, “When you eat what your hands have provided, you shall be happy and good will be yours.” (Pirkei Avot, 4:1)
After the Thanksgiving weekend, are you filled up, not with turkey, but with gratitude? Thanksgiving gave us an opportunity to realize how “rich” we are. The experience of richness comes from being satisfied, from being happy with what one has. And the way to actually experience that richness is by expressing gratitude, thankfulness.
The Hebrew term for gratitude is hakarat hatov, which means, literally, ‘recognizing the good.’ Dr. Alan Moranis (author of the Mussar book our adult education class is using) teaches, “Practicing gratitude means recognizing the good that is already yours.”
The quality of expressing gratitude, of saying thank you, to the Source of all that is ours is a fundamental Jewish value. We express it every time we say the Amidah (HaTefilah), the central personal prayer in our worship liturgy, when we chant, “Modim anachnu lach”: “We thank You.” Our Rabbis taught us that we should find 100 opportunities to say thank you every day, not only on Thanksgiving – every day!
For our Mitzvah of the Week, look for opportunities for gratitude: food to eat, water to sustain us, a home, family, friends, a beautiful tree, a rose, a scholar…we thank God for our lives which are in God’s keeping. Try to be conscious enough of your environment to see if it’s possible for you to find 100 things during this week to be thankful for. Take a note card and number it up to 100. See how far you get on the first day, then the second day. Be conscious of all you have in your life. Now that little voice in your head will try to stop your gratefulness. Shush it away, and just this week, try to acknowledge all of the reasons you have for hakarat hatov, ‘recognizing the good.’
May you become conscious of your many blessings, and may you have a Shabbat of peace,
Rabbi Debbie Israel
(Note: Portions from this message were reprinted from a 2009 Thanksgiving message. The Jewish year 5775 is Congregation Emeth’s Year of Living Jewishly.)