I find it difficult to get very excited about Thanksgiving dinner. After all that preparation time, the actual eating experience is quick, especially with young children. Plus, even with a great cook, the menu begs for some added spice and crunch!
But the four-day weekend that affords us special moments with siblings, cousins and grandparents, and time to enjoy the crisp autumn breeze and even fresh snow angels - that's what feeds my soul. That's where I focus my gratitude. It's also meaningful to share a holiday across faiths. It really does feel like sacred time in our American calendar.
Our Jewish calendar takes a different approach. Rather than dedicating one day each year to giving thanks, we have ongoing practices that bring gratitude into our awareness and into our hearts.
There's the practice of saying Modeh Ani ("Grateful am I") each morning upon waking. There's also the ritual of reciting the Motzi (the blessing over bread), which I consider an invitation to stop, recognize the source of our food, and begin the act of eating in a more mindful way.
More than any individual custom, I draw pride and inspiration from the name of our faith. When our matriarch Leah birthed her fourth son, she said: "Now I will give thanks to God." She named him Judah (or Yehudah), which means "thankful." As descendants of Judah, we've inherited an ancient gratitude practice called Judaism.
To be Jewish is to be grateful.
Right now I am feeling especially grateful for your enthusiasm and excitement about Sanctuary. Thank you to everyone who has responded to my newsletter reflections, participated in our Circles and Gatherings, and spread the word about this new project with others. You are bringing Sanctuary to life!
Here is the plan for December - two gatherings this Friday and one closer to Chanukah. As we place Jewish wisdom in dialogue with modern life, we'll practice gratitude and discuss bringing our values into the political world (click on each for details or to sign up).
Yoga Circle (12/6 at 1p): Because we experience gratitude with more than words. Through conversation and an hour-long physical practice, we’ll explore how gratitude feels in our bodies.
Shabbat Dinner Gathering (12/6 at 7p): Because on Shabbat we express our gratitude for the world as it is with delicious food and open discussion. Together we'll explore the questions: As 2020 approaches, how does it feel to be a Jew in the world and a citizen in the US? How might Jewish wisdom ground and embolden our political activism?
Family Gathering (12/21 at 3p): Because on Chanukah we recreate the miracle of a little oil lasting much longer than anyone thought. We’ll make latkes and applesauce, share in a story and snack, and learn a few ways to spread light.
Thank you and see you soon,
Rabbi Bethie Miller