Rabbi Irwin Wiener, D.D.
Faith and hope consist of many considerations. For example, there is the desire for a life of contentment and fulfillment. This is accomplished with faith in the future. Then there is the belief that doing good and acting kindly will find favor with God. We hope that the faith we have will enable us to realize our dreams and aspirations.
Many tragedies occur in our lifetime. Sometimes we dwell on them more than the accomplishments we have achieved. We forget the creativity and exploration that gave us satisfaction. We sometimes achieve unimaginable heights in reaching for a life with meaning, but we also forget to appreciate what we have.
It reminds me of something I once read that deals with the effects of gratitude. It starts by talking about our parents and how they attempt to teach us the path to independence. It explains how sometimes we are audacious and obnoxious, but we know that our parents will accept us with open arms, ever forgiving. God, too, sees us succumbing to temptation and floundering with no purpose or destination. God sets a plan before us, a roadmap, and we choose to not follow, knowing full well the consequences of our actions.
What does God do? God smiles and accepts the good with the bad and understands full well the gift of choice.
There is one thing missing however—gratitude. True, there are times when we do not feel so grateful. Still, just as we found our parents to be less than understanding at times, we were still grateful for their open arms, their unconditional love.
How about extending that to God a little. The reading I refer to goes even further. It talks about dreaming together. It then leads us into a dream of meeting an Angel as we ascend the seven rungs on the ladder to eternity. The Angel takes our hand and begins showing us around. Eventually, we arrive at a room where there are many Angels. Our guide tells us that we are in a reception area. Here is where the many prayers that are said are received. Yes, prayers are received.
This place, where prayers are delivered, was so busy with so many petitions from all over the world. Then they are distributed to the various sections to be considered by the Angel in charge of that section. And as the story continues, we learn that this section is referred to as the receiving section. All the requests are then sorted for distribution and eventually delivered to God. Sort of an Amazon distribution center where everything is sorted for delivery.
Finally, we arrive at a room at the end of the corridor, and much to our surprise, only one Angel is there, sitting idly, doing nothing. This, we are told, is the gratitude section. Naturally, we are curious as to why it was not busy. The Angel told us that after people receive the blessings they ask for, very few send back acknowledgments.
We then asked our guide as to how one acknowledges God’s blessings. The answer was quite simple—“Just say thank you,” was his reply. How many of us stop to say thank you to God? We complain to God, we blame God, we even deny God. For that matter, how many times do we say thank you to anyone who is kind to us, shows generosity, or just befriends us.
How do we say thank you to God—think of all the people in the world who have no food, no shelter, not enough resources to make their lives livable. Think of all the people in the world who are ill with no hope for a recovery, imprisoned, lonely, or maimed. Think of all the people in the world who cannot pray to their God without the fear of being murdered because of their practices or beliefs.
Then we should bow our heads and give thanks to a God Who is here this very moment. On this day we should express our gratitude, this time for renewal—for that is the way to start a new day—grateful for the past and ever grateful that there is a tomorrow. It is not an easy road we travel, but if we say thank you enough, maybe our attitude and the results of our positive responses will make all the difference in how we live our lives and, at the same time, extend them so that we can say thank you again the next day, and the next day, and, yes, the next day as well.
Is this not what the season we are enjoying is all about?
Oh, and thank you for reading this!