During my Rabbinic internship at Temple Sholom, in Greenwich, CT, Rabbi Mitch Hurvitz would preach a consistent message: An “attitude of gratitude.” Whether it be in a religious school classroom, pre-school Shabbat, or Yom Kippur sermon, the attitude for gratitude was necessary to build a sacred community. For many Americans, Thanksgiving is the moment where we actively acknowledge our life’s blessings. At the dinner table, we publicly recite what we are grateful for in ways which we may passively accept the rest of the year.
Thankfully, our tradition puts these daily reminders in our lives so that we do not need to wait to express these sentiments only once a year. Psalm 100 is part of our morning service every weekday. Mizmor ltodah, a prayer of Thanksgiving. May we worship God in gladness and acknowledge that God created us.
And of course, we as Jews are used to this practice of gratitude, as Shabbat gives us a weekly moment to both look backwards and forwards to the blessings we missed and to the blessings we can see in the week ahead.
The Talmud details the ways in which various Rabbis would prepare for Shabbat. Rabbi Hanina would wrap himself in special clothing and go out to greet the Shabbat queen. Rabbi Yannai would do the same and sing boi kala.
Once, Rabba bar Rav Huna went to his friend’s house. His friend brought him a plate of biscuits. Rabba said, “Did you know I was coming?” And his friend responded, “Are you more important than Shabbat? The biscuits were prepare for the sacred Shabbat day!”
Days before Thanksgiving, the pies are ready to be put in the oven and the tables are about to be set. But tonight is Shabbat, and the day after Thanksgiving is Shabbat, and every single Friday, when the sun sets, our tradition permits us to be grateful. Like those Rabbis in our Talmud, do something special tonight that puts you in the attitude for gratitude.
Let’s start the attitude for gratitude a few days early this year. Light the candles, eat the challah, ivdu et hashem bsimcha, worship God with joy, praise the faces before you, for there is goodness in our lives when we choose to find it.