I have just returned from a weekend in Long Island during which I conducted several discussions on the meaning of gratefulness at a wonderfully 'heimeshe' and welcoming congregation, East Northport Jewish Center.
Rabbi Ian and Beth Silverman were the most gracious of hosts;within minutes of my arrival I felt at home and this feeling only grew and deepened as the weekend unfolded.
Congregants were quick to warmly extend greetings and offer ways by which to make my stay at their synagogue an enjoyable and comfortable one.
I am most grateful for one particular experience. On Friday evening, in attendance were over twenty children. I am a strong believer in engaging everyone in my presentations. I directed my opening question to these pre-Bar/Bat Mitzvah age youngsters:
What are you most grateful for? I asked.
The answers were reassuring, mature, and I think quite remarkable.
For those who replied, the sources of their greatest gratitude were: family-parents, friends, synagogue, being Jewish and people in general. Hannukah was in the air and yet no one referred to the prospect of Hannukah gifts as the impetus for feeling grateful.Not a single child made mention of a video game as a reason for being thankful! I confess that I was quite impressed and felt most grateful for this group of young Jewish children who were reared to recognize the important aspects of gratefulness living.I think these responses reflected not only the uniqueness of the children but their families and their synagogue community as well.
As we approach Hannukah, and gifts are exchanged, I pray that we all feel deep gratitude for what we receive;I hope that beyond the material items given to loved ones and friends, we will once again be conscious of the enduring gifts for which to be unendingly grateful-family, friends, the synagogue, the honor of being Jewish and the gift of being human.
Hag Hannukah Sameach.