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Posts Tagged ‘weekly torah’

Gratitude

I just started trying to read the weekly Torah portion, though I’m using a “beginners” section on Aish.com to explain what it means. And this week’s is about gratitude. About remembering to thank the source of our blessings and not take them for granted.

It seems timely to me because this morning I was sitting on my wide shady front porch, enjoying the breezy summer weather and feeling particularly content and happy. A squirrel was chattering at my dog from the safety of a high branch and my dog’s tail was wagging furiously as she barked back. I’m not sure what the exchange went like, but I think it might have been something like,

My dog: “No! Seriously! Come down from there! I’m from Fed Ex! I got something for ya! Ya gotta sign for this box of nuts!”
Squirrel: “Just leave them on the porch.”
Dog: “No signature, no nuts!”
Squirrel: “No such luck.”
Dog: “aw… nuts.”

While this was going on, I watched a butterfly flutter around the pots of herbs I’ve got set up in front of the porch. I listened to cars drive by, enjoyed the perfumed summer breeze and thought how happy and blessed I feel to live here, in this house, at this time of my life. There are a lot of reasons why I am exquisitely grateful to be here. I made a Facebook update about how happy I was feeling.

But here is the thing, did it occur to me to thank G-d for this? To take even a moment and send a little bit of that gratitude up to Hashem? It actually didn’t. Not until I went and read the Torah portion for this week then I felt a little ashamed. Probably thanking G-d before updating Facebook is the proper order of things. While I like to think that probably it gets there anyway, maybe it doesn’t. Maybe, like a package from Fed Ex, you have to label it properly for it to get delivered.

I don’t believe that G-d parcels out blessings and our challenges individually or if that random elements of universal free will and chance factor into the mix. I kind of think, the latter. A lot of people do not deserve bad luck or sorrow, so how can we say that G-d parcels that out to them? I’ve heard people say that G-d never sends us more than we can handle or that old chestnut, what doesn’t kill us makes us stronger.

That isn’t true. Sometimes we have more on our plates than we can cope with or handle. Sometimes we are not stronger than circumstance and so we are left fractured by it.

I don’t think G-d sends us those trials personally, any more than I think He decides that one individual out of many deserves riches or blessings. How do you explain Bernie Madoff, ya know?

Here’s my explanation for Bernie Madoff, the man who fell from a particularly lucky place. He took his gifts, his blessings, his riches for granted. He got greedy and entitled, wasn’t satisfied with what he’d been given, he forgot to be grateful and keep it in perspective. So he fell down, hard. The people he cheated, though? They didn’t deserve to lose everything. That was just bad luck.

Maybe gratitude helps us keep it in perspective so we don’t overreach and get greedy.

Maybe, when we lose everything and we are fractured, with too much on our plates, gratitude and a sense that G-d is there, is the glue that can keep the pieces together and help us rebuild. Maybe we have to learn to be grateful for what is left, when everything else has fallen away.

I’m not here because I deserve to be, at least not any more than anyone else. This moment of serenity and joy, this house and those summery breezes I was enjoying, they are blessings pure and simple, not entitlements. I have lived without such abundant blessings and still felt blessed. Sure, this is nicer, easier, better… I’m enjoying it more… but I am not entitled to any of it and I don’t think that there is some code of behavior I can follow to “ensure” blessings and happiness. Hard to explain a lot of the bad things that happen to good people, if that is so.

No, I think it is a little more random. I think G-d’s attention may be a little broader than the individual’s bank balance or address or health or state of happiness, but you know, I am still going to thank Him personally, for all of those things. In the good times, and even in the worst of the hard times there is always something to be grateful for. I have never felt alone or abandoned, even in my darkest times, my poorest times, I’ve always felt like there was something greater out there. Even when I was calling it by a different name or not naming it at all, I knew it was there. I had faith in that. I still do.

It is important to remember, when feeling blessed, to lay some thanks at the Almighty’s feet, just because.

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