Have you seen the email or facebook post floating around reminding you to be thankful even when you might not initially feel the inspiration to be? It comes around several times a year and has been prevalent on my feeds lately. Almost in the form of a prayer it offers statements like, “I am thankful for the mess to clean after a party, because it means that I have been surrounded by friends.” Or most appropriate for this season, “I am thankful for my huge heating bill, because it means I am warm.” Whether it is laundry or chores, bills, or any other inconvenience, this internet meme reminds us to acknowledge blessing in the everyday aspect of our lives, to notice and be thankful for everything we take for granted. Each time it comes around, each time I “like” it or re-tweet it in my feed, I am reminded what a Jewish concept it teaches.
The Talmud (Menahot 43b) instructs us to recite 100 blessings each day, thanking God 100 times for the many gifts of our lives. If you stopped now to make a list of everything you were thankful for since you awoke this morning, how close to 100 would you get? If we were to do this, we would quickly run out of the obvious moments of blessings. In order to find 100 moments to thank God for in our lives we would have to notice the details, the minutiae, everything we take for granted.
This may be an impossible task, but according to modern science it is a worthwhile goal. Studies show that those who feel gratitude are happier and healthier. They show, too, that showing gratitude leads to feeling more gratitude and, most importantly, studies have shown that those who feel most blessed are most likely to help others. Thus when we offer blessing, when we express our gratitude, we ultimately create blessing! In just a few weeks, we all have the opportunity to offer thanks and blessing for a group of people in our community often taken for granted and overlooked, our teachers and educational support teams, at the annual Coalition for Jewish Learning’s, “Salute To Jewish Educators” event on February 24.
Whether you have taken a class at CEEBJ or elsewhere in the community, had a child in our religious school program, Kulanu, or youth group, or simply appreciate that these opportunities happen even though you don’t participate, now is your chance to offer gratitude and ensure these blessings in the future. This year awards will be given to community educators and innovative projects and the community will honor our own Rachel Macagon for her excellent teaching, her support and all of the enthusiasm she has provided CEEBJ Religious School. We will also honor Jean Lauterbach, who answers phones and helps children find the perfect library book, who gives countless hours as a volunteer and an active voice on our Lifelong Learning and Library Committees.
Rabbi Toba Strauss Schaller