The greatest benefit of teaching is learning. Without question, a conversation about an issue shared with others is a richly rewarding experience by which one is further enlightened. As the Ethics of the Fathers expounds so beautifully and succinctly:"Who is wise? One who learns from all people.."(Chpt. 4: 1)
I was blessed , as I am very often, with this form of illumination in the course of a discussion in my "little"(But by no means lesser) synagogue in the lush woods of Annapolis last Shabbat. I shared the importance of the BIRCHAT HAGOMEL-posting dated 1/4/08- elaborating upon the term-chayaveem-undeserving or obligated, those referred to in the blessing as being grateful for favors bestowed upon them in spite of their "undeservedness."
One participant, a physician, a wonderful family man and a learned and sophisticated Jew, highlighted what he considered to be of utmost importance associated with seeing ourselves as undeserving yet receiving the benefit of surviving danger and crisis. To him this term only magnified a profound spiritual awareness of our being loved 'unconditionally' by God or by whatever transcendent source one believes enables us to live and overcome the hazards of life. Like a loving parent, our love for our children is or should be ultimately unconditional , with no strings attached. By reciting the blessing at a moment of feeling rescued and delivered from mishap, although undeserving, we gain a keen awareness of a dimension of life that saturates our spiritual world with an experience of being loved, protected and taken care of; the world is not a callous , dangerous and scary place but rather a home in which we can feel benevolence , care and love.
I fully realize that most of us , myself included, have an almost naturally jaded view of the world, one that suggests not hopefulness and compassion but cynicism and distrust. With all the misery on this planet, dare we envision a reality for which to be grateful? Is this not a fantasy, a fool's dream?
Yet, how can we entirely deny the prospect and possibility of a loving and concerned reality that suffuses our ambiance of human awareness with hope ? Can we in fact live meaningfully without this spiritual supposition? I think not. Thus my commitment to the promotion and cultivation of our ability, nay,our gift of gratefulness, without which life's sacredness dissolves into absurdity and futility.
We acknowledge a Divine Source which bestows favor and goodness upon us whether we are deserving or not. Knowing this is a great comfort and a reason to awaken each morning with words of praise and thanksgiving on our lips "MODEH ANI LEFANECHA." I am thankful in Your Presence.