By Rabbi Mordechai Levin
Thanksgiving is the holiday that people of different faiths, ethnic and cultural origins can share and appreciate, because we all have collective and personal reasons to give thanks.
The Hebrew Bible reminds us to be grateful (Deuteronomy 8:12-14, 17-18): “When you have eaten your fill and have built fine houses and live in them, and all that you have is multiplied, then do not exalt yourself, forgetting the Lord your God. Do not say to yourself, ‘My power and the might of my own hand have gotten me this wealth.’ But remember the Lord your God, for it is he who gives you power to get wealth.”
Our prayers also teach us to thank God for the blessings He bestows upon us daily. As we say in one of our prayers: “We thank You, for our lives, which are in your hand, for our souls which are in your care, and for your miracles which we experience every day, and for your wondrous deeds and favors at every time of day: evening, morning, and noon.”
We make a mistake if we think that offering thanks to God is just a type of religious courtesy or politeness. The inability to be thankful makes us forget the blessings we enjoy. On the contrary, to be thankful makes us count our blessings, and therefore, helps us to live a happier life.
A good Thanksgiving day exercise might be to divide a sheet of paper into two columns. On one, let us list all the things we desire and are craving to obtain. In the other column, let us detail all those things we own and could lose. We would probably find the first list much shorter than the second. It is sad that it often takes a serious threat to our blessings to make us appreciate them — and sometimes we do not appreciate them until they are gone.
So this is my prayer for this Thanksgiving:
We offer our gratitude to You, God, for the numerous blessings with which You favor us every day.
For the blessings of life and health, of love and family, friends and community.
For the blessings of joy and laughter, meditation and peace, memory and hope.
For the blessings of the beauty of nature and its gifts, for our freedom and the blessings we enjoy in our country.
For the blessings of our heritage and our sacred days.
For the blessings we recognize and those which we fail to recognize.
For all these, O God, hear our thanks and accept our gratitude.
On this Thanksgiving and every day, let us count our blessings and be thankful for them.