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[KE CyberTorah] Planting Gratitude

Planting Gratitude

In ancient Israel, farmers across the land would bring their first fruits to the Priests and declare their gratitude to God for the land and its abundance. “God brought us to this place flowing with milk and honey, so now I bring first fruits of the soil, which You, God, have given me.” Our oldest known liturgy is one of gratitude, of taking the time to appreciate the overflowing abundance and to thank God for it.

The Torah knows that we need reminders to be grateful. Naming a moment of blessing focuses our thoughts on appreciation. As we train our eyes towards goodness, we begin to see it more and more. Then we begin to realize that what we thought was scarce is actually in abundance. We realize that we have so much to share with others. Gratitude can lead directly to generosity. 

Those with less are sometimes more generous than those with more. When you have only a little, each morsel of food, each night under a roof, feels like a gift. Appreciating that gift transforms a comparative lack into a feeling of abundance. The Torah worries about affluence more than poverty because it is in affluence that we may become tied up in our perceived needs and forget to see the abundance in front of us. Then we hold onto everything we have and perversely experience ourselves as living in scarcity.

This liturgy draws our eyes to the life sustaining quality of the Earth itself. Just as the realization of abundance generates generosity, so also appreciation of the Earth generates a responsibility to care for the planet. Jewish law forbids wasteful destruction which means minimizing trash and being thoughtful about water and energy consumption.From that place of generosity and abundance, we then search for ways to share this value with others so that the life-giving quality of the Earth can be nurtured for another generation. I believe we can motivate ourselves from a place of gratitude and abundance to work together to preserve and care for this amazing and beautiful planet.

As you begin preparing for the Holidays, I invite you into gratitude with three specific practices:

  1. Notice something in the world. A beautiful flower or a lovely stream. A sunset or the moon. As we notice the world, we offer gratitude. Thank you, God, for this planet so beautiful and that so miraculously sustains life.
  2. Notice something in the people you love. Draw your attention to a caring act from a friend or family member. Thank you, God, for this person in my life who offers me love. 
  3. Notice something in yourself. Maybe a capacity you have for generosity or listening. Maybe a way you are making a difference in the lives of others or the planet. Thank you, God, for my own capacity to do good

The holidays are all about teshuvah, an answer or return. I believe that gratitude is a first and key step in unlocking our hidden potential to bring goodness into our own lives and the lives of others. I believe a practice of gratitude will lead us to great generosity and care more reliably than fear or judgement. Join me on a journey of gratitude and let us uncover the promised land to which it can lead us.

Shabbat Shalom,
Rabbi David Booth

Sat, July 13 2024 7 Tammuz 5784