Saturday, September 17, 2011

Earth Etude for 20 Elul

Gratitude

Gratitude. Gratitude was where this amazing woman had landed three days after learning her cancer had spread throughout her body and nothing more could be done. Gratitude – not fleeting, as she had experienced it previously, but minute-by-minute gratitude for all the goodness in her life. Gratitude with full awareness of all the difficulties.

I had gone for an early morning walk. When I reached the open meadow of the conservation area and the dew on the spider webs caught my eye, I felt it – gratitude. I thought of the words Jewish tradition teaches us to say first thing in the morning: Modah/eh ani lifanechah – I give thanks before You… What a powerful way to begin the day!

Jewish tradition also requires us to say 100 blessings a day, to praise G!d 100 times every day. Through recitation of the thrice daily prayer services, blessings before and after eating and after using the bathroom, one can easily accomplish this goal. But what if, instead, we were to say a blessing at regular intervals throughout the day. In 24 hours, that‘s a blessing about every 15 minutes. But most of us are not awake 24 hours a day (Thankfully!). Doing a little more math, if I sleep 8 hours (for which I am grateful) that leaves 16 hours, or 960 minutes. 960 ÷ 100 = 9.6. If I say a blessing every 9.6 minutes during 16 waking hours, I will say 100 blessings a day.

That is almost constant praise and blessing for the gifts bestowed by G!d - close to constant gratitude.

What would take for me to come close enough to G!d to feel constant gratitude? Must I be dying? I certainly hope not!

May this month of Elul, of closing in on the Yamim Noraim, the Days of Awe, bring us all closer to a constant sense of gratitude.

Katy Z. Allen is the rabbi and spiritual leader of Ma'yan Tikvah.

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