A Year of Gratitude
A juicy orange, a deep breath of air to fill your lungs, a cup of coffee at breakfast... What's the big deal? It's a VERY big deal! Read on...
In the book Wonders of Gratitude, Rabbi Shalom Arush quotes Rebbe Nachman who states that a main purpose of our being sent to Earth is to feel more and more of Hashem’s love. To do this we need to develop an attitude of gratitude. This goes against our nature as we generally focus on what we lack rather than what we have.
Rabbi Zev Leff says it’s as if we were born with a tag on our foot that says “100% satisfaction guaranteed” and when we don’t get what we want, boy do we complain!
In a video by Rabbi Shlomo Farhi, he recounts that the grandsons of Rabbi Avigdor Miller showed him a glass that was filled about halfway with water. They asked their grandfather to describe how he viewed the glass. Is it half full or half empty? Rabbi Miller responded that the glass was full. Half of it was filled with water and half of it was filled with air.
When I heard this, I wondered how often do we notice and appreciate air? Next time you walk down the street look at the trees and think about how we exhale carbon dioxide needed by the trees, and the trees in turn transmit oxygen that we need to breathe. Take time periodically throughout the day to pause and breathe deeply. Experience how great it feels to inhale fresh air. Refrain from breathing for 30 seconds, and then feel an even more intense appreciation!
In his classic How to Stop Worrying and Start Living, Dale Carnegie observes that ingratitude grows like weeds. Gratitude needs to be carefully cultivated like a bed of roses. What are some exercises that we can do during the month of Elul and throughout the coming year to cultivate an enhanced awareness and appreciation of Hashem’s kindness?
Here are three techniques to consider:
What am I Grateful for Right Now?
In his book, Thank You, Rabbi Zelig Pliskin suggests that periodically throughout the day we ask ourselves: “What am I grateful for right now?” You can answer with something nice that happened earlier that day or with any of the ongoing blessings in your life. This brings goodness and positivity to the forefront of your mind.
I do this exercise first thing in the morning, before I go to bed, and at least several times a day. I set periodic reminders on my phone. Each time, I try to mention at least a couple items.
We often eat our food while multi-tasking and we do so in a hurry. When I’m at work, I’ve started to leave my desk and eat in the lunchroom. While eating I try to slow down, savor the food, and contemplate Hashem’s kindness. “Thank you, Hashem, for giving me this tasty food and a digestive system so I can enjoy and consume it.” Chewing food repeatedly not only lengthens the time you experience pleasure; it also promotes satiation and facilitates the digestive process.
Rabbi Avigdor Miller zt”l commented many times about the importance of considering the wonders of the food that Hashem created for us. For instance, just consider an orange. It is loaded with Vitamin C, bioflavonoids, and more – exactly what we need in the cold winter months when they ripen. Every slice is loaded with tiny bottles of juice, held in a wondrous “plastic” wrapper that only the Creator could design – except this “plastic” is actually good for you! Don’t forget the seed, which although tiny has everything it needs to create another tree so that the oranges never stop coming…
A message to my fellow coffee drinkers: Instead of gulping down our coffee, let’s pause and sip it slowly. Let’s contemplate how great it tastes and thank the Creator.
Take special care on Shabbat to eat more slowly and focus on truly savoring each bite. At least a couple times while you are eating, pause, look at the food, and say “l’Kavod Shabbat Kodesh” (for the honor of Shabbat).
A Meal of Thanks
Rabbi Avigdor Miller noted that most people wait until they experience a miraculous salvation before having a Seudat Hahodah (feast of thanksgiving). Rabbi Miller said that every morning at breakfast he declared it to be a feast of thanksgiving. He would then give profuse thanks to the Creator for the fact that he was alive.
Try this. It really works wonders! “Thank you, Hashem, that I am alive, healthy, and able to make a new beginning today. Each day is a new life, thank You so much!”
What a wonderful way to begin the day!
We should each develop our own personal gratitude enhancement plan. Rabbi Arush says that gratitude is the product of feeling the immense love that Hashem lavishes on us at every moment.
The Alshich says that Hashem wants to give us many blessings. All he wants us to do is to recognize that they come from Him and thank Him.
Let’s make this a special focus during the month of Elul and prepare for a New Year of blessings. The more we count our blessings the more blessings we’ll have to count!