This Thanksgiving weekend I have been thinking a lot about thanks. It is my first Thanksgiving as a US Citizen for which I am enormously thankful after years of visas, green card, peppered with mixed immigration status. I am beyond blessed to have loved long-term friends who moved north around the same time as me, with whom I get to spend Thanksgiving in the Virginia/Maryland/DC area. I have a warm and welcoming community congregational community where I am fortunate enough to be rabbi. I have people around me who make me feel loved, valued and nurtured. Yes, this Thanksgiving weekend I have been thinking a lot about thanks.
However, being grateful for life and blessings as a Jew is not limited to a one-time a year American holiday. Jews don’t limit thankfulness only to a day with laden tables and turkey/tofurky, cranberry sauce and pies. Our tradition would have us every morning, before we rise, begin with a prayer of thanks. It is a prayer said as we lie flat, as our neshema/souls are restored within us from their nightly cleansing in the heavens on high. It is a prayer said laying on our pillows in that sleepy dreamy moment as we awake, as our unconscious gives way to our conscious. It is a prayer said at the beginning of our day, designed to get us out on the right side of the bed.
There is an importance in the word order. Most translations, like the one above, begin with the word “I”, emphasizing self. However the Hebrew does not put the “I” first. The Hebrew reads: “thankful am I”. Our morning, coming into our own wakefulness, does not begin with a sense of self, but rather a sense of thanks.
What would it take for our one day of American thanks to morph into the Jewish custom of every day thanks? Just a short tiny prayer said under our blankets! That should not be too hard, right? Imagine how different your day would look if thanks was the first thought upon awakening? Imagine how your life might be transformed if thanks was your set induction into each morning’s existence.
So this American Thanksgiving Holiday, join me in emphasizing thanks in the every day. Vow to always get out on the right side of the bed with the words “Thankful am I…” to see beyond your self to the many blessings in life that abound.