Those of us who live in the United States are probably in Thanksgiving mode right now, whether we celebrate Thanksgiving with the turkey feast, or not. Honestly, it is nice to see the world around us celebrating, and hopefully embracing, an attitude that can helps us all so much in our daily lives and in our emotional states: gratitude!
Thankfully, as Jews we have a long tradition of thanksgiving and in fact, we pretty much have this concept embedded in our spiritual DNA. We are called “Yehudim” (Jews), from the Hebrew word “hodaá” (gratefulness). Yes, we are called “the grateful ones.”
In fact, our tradition for thousands of years is that, from the moment we wake up, our first form of conscious thought and speech is the Modeh Ani– 12 short, yet powerful words that set the tone for our entire day, and shape our mindset for our entire lives. “I offer thanks to You, living and eternal King, for You have mercifully restored my soul within me; Your faithfulness is great.”
מוֹדֶה אֲנִי לְפָנֶיךָ מֶלֶךְ חַי וְקַיָּם, שֶׁהֶחֱזַרְתָּ בִּי נִשְׁמָתִי בְּחֶמְלָה. רַבָּה אֱמוּנָתֶךָ
I was recently at the Bar Mitzvah celebration of a boy who reminded us all about the importance and significance of gratefulness. As part of his moving speech, he encouraged us to take home laminated cards with the Modeh Ani and its explanation. He then requested a birthday present from us: that we should say these words when we wake up!
This is the beautiful explanation that Mendel shared with us on those cards, one of which I still have.
“These are the first words we utter every morning-while still lying in bed. Our first conscious moments are spent thanking G-d for the gift of life. It doesn’t matter what we did yesterday or last night; nothing can taint those first innocent words that sit at our primal consciousness… Picture yourself lying there while a king or head of state stands above you, waiting for you to get your act together to execute some critical mission. Well, it isn’t a king or president. It is the one who creates kings, presidents, and the entire world at every moment– and you too. Again. Today.”
Only a few weeks after this memorable night, when our dear friend Mendel encouraged us to be grateful each and every day, Mendel’s soul returned to its Creator, leaving a tremendous void. However, his birthday wish, honored by many, has created an everlasting change in the world.
As we go through the Thanksgiving holiday, let’s take the cue from the world around us to remember what is true to us. Gratitude is essential to who we are as Jews. Let tap into our inner selves and attempt to have this mindset every single day from the very first moment we wake up. As Mendel told us during his moving Bar Mitzvah speech, “it’s short, easy and it will change your day.” Try it. It might even change your life. :-)
And now I’m off to cook a feast…(which may or may not include turkey) ;-)
Pictures by Yael for Jewish Latin Princess.