“Earth’s crammed with heaven, And every common bush afire with God; But only he who sees, takes off his shoes.”- Elizabeth Barrett Browning, Aurora Leigh
“Who is rich? Those who rejoice in their own portion” - Pirkei Avot 4:1
We as a Jewish collective have encountered great challenge and hardship throughout our history. I have often quipped that historically a good day for a Jew was one where you were only kicked out of a country. But even among this backdrop of struggle, Judaism has survived.
As modern Jews, our challenges are different. And simply surviving isn’t all that remarkable, frankly. Instead, both collectively and individually, we want to thrive. And how do we best facilitate that growth? In my estimation the most potent tool is gratitude. This Jewish concept, Hakarat HaTov (noticing the good) provides for our sense of well-being, contentment, and emotional health.
In Deuteronomy 10:12, Moses tells the Jewish people: "What (mah) does God ask of you?” From that question, the Talmud hears a different word-me’ah, which means 100, asserting that God’s desire is for us to make 100 blessings throughout our day. With 100 brachot spread out over a typical 16-hour day, on average one bracha would be said every 10 minutes. That amazing extrapolation creates one of the first models for the practice of gratefulness. Imagine, if you will, the astounding contribution to your life and the lives of those around you if you adopted such a practice. It isn’t hard or costly. It only demands the attentiveness of your five senses to take stock of the gifts that are around you and within you. And its practice can change the world.
Gratitude not only strengthens us as human beings, it strengthens us as a community. Gratefulness makes us more compassionate and empathetic. It reduces anxiety and depression. It allows us to be kinder and gentler to one another.