Around our Thanksgiving table, as I’m certain around many of yours, we begin by having everyone say something about which they are particularly grateful this year. Sometimes the words don’t come that easily. In Jewish tradition, we send out our gratitude into the universe every day. Here are some suggestions I compiled for your Thanksgiving table and/or your Shabbat table for Thanksgiving weekend. The second offering is this link to a wonderful “game” of thanks called”Attitude of Gratitude” by Dr. Miriam Heller Stern, the National Director of the School of Education for the Hebrew Union College/Jewish Institute of Religion.
The First Thing on a Jews Lips in the Morning
.מוֹדֶה\מוֹדָה אֲנִי לְפָנֶֽיךָ, מֶֽלֶךְ חַי וְקַיָּם, שֶׁהֶחֱזַֽרְתָּ בִּי נִשְׁמָתִי בְּחֶמְלָה רַבָּה אֱמוּנָתֶֽךָ
Mo-deh/Mo-dah a-ni l’fa-ne-Cha Me-lech chai v’ka-yam she-he-che-zar-ta bi nish-ma-ti b’chem-la ra-bah e-mu-na-te-Cha.
I am overwhelming grateful within the Livingness-and Eternity-of-Everything, for the feeling of being vital, once again, in this morning. The world is so wonderfully reliable; it’s hard to believe how marvelous this is.
Early Morning Prayer of Gratitude for Our Bodies
בָּרוּךְ אַתָּה יְיָ אֱלֹהֵֽינוּ מֶֽלֶךְ הָעוֹלָם, אֲשֶׁר יָצַר אֶת הָאָדָם בְּחָכְמָה, וּבָרָא בוֹ נְקָבִים נְקָבִים, חֲלוּלִים חֲלוּלִים, גָלוּי וְיָֽדוּעַ לִפְנֵי כִסֵּא כְבוֹדֶֽךָ שֶאִם יִפָּתֵֽחַ אֶחָד מֵהֶם, אוֹ יִסָּתֵם אֶחָד מֵהֶם, אִי אֶפְשַׁר לְהִתְקַיֵים וְלַעֲמוֹד לְפָנֶֽיךָ: בָּרוּךְ אַתָּה יְיָ, רוֹפֵא כָל בָּשָׂר, וּמַפְלִיא לַעֲשׂוֹת
Baruch Ata Adonai Eloheynu melech ha-olam, a-sher ya-tzar et ha-adam b’chawch-ma u’va-ra vo n’ka-vim n’ka-vim cha-lu-lim cha-lu-lim. Ga-lu-i v’ya-du-a lif-ney chi-sey ch’vo-de-cha she-im y’pa-tey-ach e-chad mey-hem o y’sa-teym e-chad mey-hem ee ef-shar l’hit-ka-yem v’la-a-mod l’fa-ne-cha. Baruch Ata Adonai ro-fey chawl ba-sar u’maf-li la-a-sot.
We are humbled by the creative power of the Holy-Oneness-of-Being. May we perceive an artistry in the Oneness that causes us to give thanks for our bodies that reflect an innate and intricate wisdom. Within our bodies is a vast system of open places and closed places. The Consciousness-of-Everything holds the understanding that should one of the opened places close or if one of the closed places should open, we could not exist in our physical way. We are humbled by the creative power of the Holy-Oneness-of-Being and we give thanks for the potential for healing infused into the world; it seems so miraculous to us!
Prayer of Gratitude (said three times each day)
מוֹדִים אֲנַֽחְנוּ לָךְ, שָׁאַתָּה הוּא, יְיָ אֱלֹהֵֽינוּ וֵאלֹהֵי אֲבוֹתֵֽינוּ, לְעוֹלָם וָעֶד, צוּר חַיֵּֽינוּ, מָגֵן יִשְׁעֵֽנוּ, אַתָּה הוּא לְדוֹר וָדוֹר, נֽוֹדֶה לְּךָ וּנְסַפֵּר תְּהִלָּתֶֽךָ, עַל חַיֵּֽינוּ הַמְּסוּרִים בְּיָדֶֽךָ, וְעַל נִשְׁמוֹתֵֽינוּ הַפְּקוּדוֹת לָךְ, וְעַל נִסֶּֽיךָ שֶׁבְּכָל יוֹם עִמָּֽנוּ, וְעַל נִפְלְאוֹתֶֽיךָ וְטוֹבוֹתֶֽיךָ שֶׁבְּכָל עֵת, עֶֽרֶב וָבֹֽקֶר וְצָהֳרָֽיִם, הַטּוֹב, כִּי לֹא כָלוּ רַחֲמֶֽיךָ, וְהַמְרַחֵם, כִּי לֹא תַֽמּוּ חֲסָדֶֽיךָ, מֵעוֹלָם קִוִּֽינוּ לָךְ
וְעַל כֻּלָּם יִתְבָּרַךְ וְיִתְרוֹמַם שִׁמְךָ מַלְכֵּֽנוּ תָּמִיד לְעוֹלָם וָעֶד
וְכֹל הַחַיִּים יוֹדֽוּךָ סֶּֽלָה, וִיהַלְלוּ אֶת שִׁמְךָ בֶּאֱמֶת, הָאֵל יְשׁוּעָתֵֽנוּ וְעֶזְרָתֵֽנוּ סֶֽלָה. בָּרוּךְ אַתָּה יְיָ, הַטּוֹב שִׁמְךָ וּלְךָ נָאֶה לְהוֹדוֹת
Modim anachnu lach, sha’atah hu Adonai Eloheinu v’Elohei avoteinu v’imoteinu l’olam va-ed. Tzur chayeinu, magen yisheinu atah hu l’dor vador. Nodeh l’cha un’sapeir t’hilatecha. Al chayeinu ham’surim b’yadecha, v’al nishmoteinu hap’kudot lach, v’al nisecha sheb’chol yom imanu, v’al niflotecha v’tovotecha sheb’chol eit, erev vavoker v’tzohorayim. Hatov ki lo chalu rachamecha, v’ham’racheim ki lo tamu chasadecha, mei-olam kivinu lach. V’chol hachayim yoducha selah, viv’hal’lu et shimcha be-emet. y’shuateinu v’ezrateinu selah. Baruch atah Adonai, hatov shimcha ul’cha na-eh l’hodot.
May our gratitude become part of the many waves of thanks for life and its blessings that have been offered throughout time. Life holds us in loving hands, enfolds us in the All, and fosters moments that feel miraculous and wondrous. May we direct our living toward a Grand Goodness and a Womb-like Mercy each and every day. All life gives thanks to the same Source with many names that are true, with many names that are One. We join all life in giving thanks.
1. Yiddush Proverb
If a Jew breaks a leg, he thanks God that he did not break both legs.
If he breaks both legs, he thanks God that he did not break his neck.
2. Commentary on Leviticus 7:15 by the Gerer Rebbe (Rabbi Yitzchak Meir Alter, late 19th c.)
וּבְשַׂר זֶבַח תּוֹדַת שְׁלָמָיו בְּיוֹם קָרְבָּנוֹ יֵֽאָכֵל לֹֽא־יַנִּיחַ מִמֶּנּוּ עַד־בֹּֽקֶר
And the meat of the sacrifice of his peace offerings for thanksgiving shall be eaten the same day that it is offered; he shall not leave any of it until the morning.
A Korban Todah )Thanksgiving Offering in the ancient Temple in Jerusalem) is an expression of thanks for an event which assumes the importance of a miracle***. Daily, there are miracles that occur for every person, as we mention in our prayers: “And for your miracles which accompany us every day”. Therefore, we must be alert every day to thank God for His help and not consider it sufficient that we gave thanks yesterday, since every day brings new opportunities.
(***Maimonides said that there is no such thing as a miracle – only what is perceived as a miracle.)
3. A Commentary about Shavuot from Masechet Chochma (“The Price of Wisdom by Rabbi Meir Simcha of Dvinsk, late 19th to early 20th c.)
וּֽבְקֻצְרְכֶם אֶת־קְצִיר אַרְצְכֶם לֹֽא־תְכַלֶּה פְּאַת שָֽׂדְךָ בְּקֻצְרֶךָ וְלֶקֶט קְצִֽירְךָ לֹא תְלַקֵּט לֶֽעָנִי וְלַגֵּר תַּֽעֲזֹב אֹתָם אֲנִי יְהוָֹה אֱלֹֽהֵיכֶֽם
Leviticus 23:22. And when you reap the harvest of your land, you shall not make clean riddance up to the corners of your field when you reap, nor shall you gather any gleaning of your harvest; you shall leave them to the poor, and to the stranger; I am the Lord your God.
You are to observe Shavuot, the festival commemorating the Giving of the Law, not only because of the statutes for which we would never have felt a need if they had not been set down in the Torah, but also in thanksgiving for the laws which make sense even to the human mind, such as the laws pertaining to compassion for the unfortunate and charity to the poor. Experience has shown that, without faith in God, people are liable to become like wild beasts which do not have a spark of compassion, and therefore they are capable of committing the basest crimes in order to satisfy their selfish desires.
Only if you observe the commandments concerning the leaving of parts of your harvest for the poor and the stranger are you permitted to proclaim the festival of Shavuot “a holy convocation”, to give thanks even for such readily understandable commandments of charity and compassion as these, for had the Torah not been given, you might never have come to observe them.