How many times do we say “Thank You” without really thinking about what it means? While considered the polite response (we were all taught by our parents to say it whenever someone performs a task for us or gives us something), how many times do we say “Thank You” and actually feel deep, heartfelt gratitude?
Today, I feel thankful.
Perhaps it is cliché to write about how thankful I am the day after Thanksgiving. Well, it’s okay to be cliché every once in a while, I think. While Thanksgiving is not at its core a Jewish holiday, the space in time that Thanksgiving creates for us to consider everything for which we are grateful seems to fit right in with feelings and rituals that are elicited by many of the Jewish holidays. So here we go.
My father met me at the train station in New Jersey. I am grate that I have parents who care deeply about me and who welcome me into their home, to spend Thanksgiving with me.
As we drove home from the train station, I witnessed piles of branches and trees that had fallen down weeks ago in the snowstorm. The devastation was evidence. I am grateful I have a safe place to live, and that, barukh hashem, I and my family and friends have not been affected badly by this year’s severe weather.
As I get ready for bed, I am grateful for flannel pajamas. And the clean feeling I have after brushing my teeth.
Thanksgiving morning, I woke up and watched the Thanksgiving Day Parade from the comfort of my parents’ family room. I am grateful for my health and my ability to wake up every day with a smile on my face, in a good mood. I am grateful for a heated house, for American traditions that unite so many different people between our coasts, and for the police and other forces who keep us safe even in crowds of over three million.
My brother later came over so we could drive to New York to pick up my grandmother and then to central New Jersey to have Thanksgiving dinner with my extended family. I am grateful for the time I get to spend with my immediate family. I don’t think I really appreciated how wonderful it is to have time, just the five of us, until I decided to live four states away. Once again, I am grateful that I have a supportive family who loves me and supports my decisions, even when I live far from them.
I am grateful to have a family which isn’t broken.
We spent Thanksgiving afternoon with extended family, including my parents, both of my siblings, my grandmother, my mother’s two sisters, and their immediate families. I am grateful once again for a warm family, with families that live geographically close to one another, such that we can appreciate each other and catch up at holidays such as this one. I am grateful that we all are doing economically well enough to put food on the table and to have clothes to wear. And I am grateful that I have siblings who support me and whom I can support.
I am also grateful for secular holidays that allow us to get together as a family, but do not preclude cooking and driving.
For some of these things, there are blessings that Judaism proscribes. We have blessings over food to make the act of eating sacred; we have blessings for avoiding danger; we have blessings for rising up in the morning; we have a blessing even when seeing a gathering of many people. Other things, are just meant to be appreciated from afar. Let us take time this weekend, this month, this year, to appreciate even those things that are close to us.
As Sir Chief Rabbi Jonathan Sacks points out in his commentary on the siddur, Nachmanides notes that we read each day three times a day the phrase v’al nisekha she-b’khol yom ‘imanu – thanking God “for Your miracles which are with us every day”, and that there are two kinds of miracles: the hidden and the exposed. The exposed miracles are those which are supernatural, perhaps unexpected, and wondrous. This phrase, however, found in the Modim paragraph about mid-way through the Amidah, the Standing Prayer, encourages us, according to Nachmanides, to appreciate those little things, those “hidden” miracles that are always in our midst but are perhaps so commonplace that we take them for granted. Let us take this to heart, and notice the hidden wonders in our midst in every moment of every day.