Thanksgiving is over and we are getting ready for Hanukkah. At the J, our “Jewish Value of the Month” is “Hoda’ah — Appreciation or Gratitude.” Being thankful is a life-affirming quality.
A new poll has found that Americans think their own gratitude is increasing, while everyone else’s is going down (survey commissioned by the John Templeton Foundation). What does that say about us? Here are some of the findings:
- How important is gratitude? More than 90 percent agreed that grateful people are more fulfilled, lead richer lives and are more likely to have friends.
- When do we feel grateful? Given a list of categories, people were most grateful for their immediate families, followed closely by freedom.
- How do we say “thanks”? Less than 50 percent said they would be “very likely” to thank salespeople that helped them, as well as the postman, the cleaning staff, etc.
- Who is grateful? Women were more grateful than men; 18- to 24-year-olds express gratitude less often than any other age group; people were least likely to express gratitude in workplaces…despite wishing to be thanked more often themselves at work.
Lots of interesting facts and thoughts for us to work on in our daily lives! Judaism has a way to express thanks — saying blessings! The rabbis tell us to say 100 blessings every day; however, the only Torah-based blessing is the Birkat Hamazon, the blessing after the meal. It is written in Deuteronomy 8:10, “And you shall eat and be satisfied, and bless Adonai your God for the good land which God has given you.” There are four blessings in the traditional Birkat Hamazon:
- Birkat Hazan: praising God for sustaining life and providing food for all creatures.
- Birkat Haaretz: thanking God for being compassionate and nourishing the Jewish people, both with food and with Torah.
- Birkat Yerushalayim: begging God to be merciful and continue to support the Jewish people and to rebuild Jerusalem.
- Birkat Hatov v’Hameitiv: This blessing ends by voicing the hope that “God will never deny us anything good.”
It is an interesting idea that blessing after you eat is commanded. Perhaps that is when we are feeling most thankful. Yet, saying blessings before makes us stop and think about how fortunate we are and to take a moment to appreciate it before moving on. Take time during the holiday season to be thankful every moment of every day!