By Rabbi-Cantor Cheri Weiss
On most mornings, upon opening my eyes, the first thing I do is recite this blessing: “I thank You, living and enduring Sovereign, for You have graciously returned my soul within me. Great is Your faithfulness.” Being granted another day of life is not a given; and in this prayer, we may express our profound gratitude to the Divine for allowing us to experience life for another day. Through these words, we set an intention for gratitude as our day begins. While there is a good chance that we will run into some small (or large!) irritations over the course of this day, hopefully there will also be opportunities to bring some goodness into the world and into the lives of those with whom we will interact.
The central prayer in our liturgy is known as HaTefilah (“The Prayer”) or alternatively, HaAmidah (“The Standing” – as it is recited while standing). It is included in morning, afternoon, and evening prayer services, comprised of a series of blessings ranging from seven (on Shabbat and certain holidays) to 19 (weekday). All versions end with three blessings of gratitude to God, the second of which is known as Hoda’ah: (“Thanksgiving”):
“We give thanks to You that you are the Lord our God, and God of our ancestors forever and ever, Rock of our lives and Shield of our salvation from generation to generation. We thank You and sing your praises, for our lives that are entrusted in your hand, and for our souls that are in your safekeeping, and for your miracles that are with us every day, and for your wonders and good deeds that are with us at all times: evening, morning, and noon. Good One, your mercies never fail us, Compassionate One, your loving kindness never ceases. We have always placed our hope in You. And for all these things, may Your Name, our Sovereign, be continually blessed, exalted, and extolled forever and all time. And all the living shall thank You forever and praise Your Name with sincerity—the Almighty, Who is our deliverance and our help forever. Blessed are You, God; Your Name is the Beneficent and it is fitting to praise You.”
In this prayer, we are given the opportunity to thank God for the blessings in our lives three times a day. Yet the words reflect more than gratitude. They are about placing our faith and trust in the Divine: “… our lives that are entrusted in your hand, and for our souls that are in your safekeeping.”
With the world seeming to be spinning out of control, antisemitism on the rise, the war in Israel and Gaza raging on, and over two hundred Israeli hostages tragically still being held captive (as of this writing), we may ask ourselves how it is possible express gratitude and trust in God when so many are suffering. Yet reaching out to something larger than ourselves amidst the chaos can help calm the storm that rages within and around us. In this month of Thanksgiving, each of us can express gratitude to God and to other people for the many blessings in our lives and reach out to help people in need within our communities.
For each day we are granted life, there is a Divine purpose. It is up to us to discover, uncover and manifest it in the world. We may not have control over the world at large, but we do have the ability to bring joy and kindness to someone every day. For all these things, let us express thanks to the One who grants us life.