When Dayenu and Thanksgiving Meet…

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A Few of My Favorite Little Things To Be Thankful For…

While the last several years have been stressful for everyone, we as Jews, always try to find the good in the bad. Comedian/rabbi, Jackie Mason, who turned kvetching into comedy gold, once told an interviewer, “Whenever Jews have suffered and have been persecuted, they need to laugh to survive.”

Laughing is an instinct for self-preservation. I mention this because I don’t want to make light of the little things I’m grateful for … mind you, I say LITTLE things. Most of my obvious gifts for thankfulness, well, are obvious: Having survived a pandemic, still alive in my mid-seventies (aren’t all of us Baby Boomers still 18 years old? The 60s, rock-on!), my adult children are safe, healthy and have great professions, my grandchildren got through two years of ZOOM schooling with little difficulty, my 3 older grandkids are thriving in college while the 16-year-old is doing a semester abroad in Israel. (Please, dear G-d, keep her safe during her week in Poland and bring her back home to us safely in December.)

As we enter the Thanksgiving season, I have been thinking about gratitude/thankfulness. It is clearly the time of year to ponder these topics and while researching for deeper meaning, I found there is a Hebrew term for gratitude: Hakarat HaTov or “Recognizing the Good.” Jewish tradition encourages us to offer at least 100 blessings a day for being thankful for every bit of food we eat to going to the bathroom. But who has such time every day to say so many blessings?

And, of course, by celebrating Shabbat at week’s end, we acknowledge thankfulness for the workings of G-d for creating the world in seven days. For showing our gratitude, we clean our homes, prepare a meal fit for a king/queen (G-d?, if He/She could make it), dress in festive clothes, invite loved ones and friends to join in the celebration and meal, and, of course, light candles…But who has such time every week for all these preparations?

Dayenu, the Passover song we sing at seder, literally means, “It would have been enough for us,” (the Jews thanking and praising G-d for getting us out of the dessert is always enough gratitude) and “Thank you, G-d, for all the blessings the Jewish people have,” and “Never forget the good in our lives” — literally a song of gratitude, expressing thanks for our condition and station in life.

But do we often lose sight and question if the IT is not enough for us and simply are blind to all that is good in our reaches? Does “It would have been enough” give us reason to be complacent? Should we stop being the best we can be? Stop learning? Stop seeking improvement? Should we accept the status quo?

As we get older, it’s not unusual to feel regrets for not kicking the entire bucket list or questioning our decisions over the years. I’ve talked with people who are kept up at night mulling over the “What-could-have-beens.” But Judaism teaches us, “Who is rich? The one who is content with what one has.” So how can we refocus when our disappointments keep us from seeing the abundance or when anger overpowers our clarity, and we are discontent when bad things happen to good people? (We are also taught that Judaism has more questions than answers!)

It is often difficult to reconcile the dichotomy of our prosperity because our affluences are not always tangible. Short of a kick-in-the-ass, that too often comes with a painful experience, I have no true and tried answers as to how we embrace our mazel. It’s within each of us to find that sweet spot to keep us aligned with our personal wealth while realizing wealth comes in many forms, shapes and sizes.

And  what I hope for in this 21 Century/crazy/unfamiliar world we live in as Baby Boomers is that we can find our most profound inner resources to not look back at the incomplete bucket list as a failure but to REcreate the bucket list for today’s today, find new goals to conquer with new lenses and not judge ourselves by our past but live for our future with new perspective and say, “I think I can! I know I can! I will!”

So why is it we only sing Dayenu on Passover?

  • Maybe Dayenu can be our new daily mantra of thanks, our words to G-d for our appreciation for all the good that fills our lives.
  • Dayenu is quick and easy and we can all find such a time, daily, to say Dayenu!

And hopefully, as Baby Boomers, Dayenu is an encouragement about taking some chances, “Going where this man/woman has never gone before!”  

My LITTLE moments of thankfulness/gratitude:

  • When I make a perfect overmedium egg and the yolk doesn’t break!
  • When high school friends still remember my birthday!
  • When I make all green lights down a two mile main street!
  • When my adult kids text me they have landed at their destination!
  • When my almost adult grandkids text me they have landed at their destination!
  • When my collegeage grandkids tell me, “I’m the designated driver tonight!”
  • When all parts of my meal are done at the same time!
  • When I outsmart my phone and computer and don’t have to ask my son for help!
  • When my candidate wins!
  • When it rains! (I live in California.)
  • When Winter ends before Spring should start and when it’s not 100 degrees on Halloween!
  • When my Shabbat candles don’t drip!
  • When Spring flowers bloom!
  • When my grandkids text me a goodnight emoji!


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