Yael's Holy Land Reflections
Giving Thanks and Recognizing Our Blessings
Nov 24, 2020
As November is coming to a close, and this extraordinary and extraordinarily challenging year nears its end, it may be difficult for many of us to think of what we are thankful for. All of us have been touched in some way by the COVID-19 pandemic and the severe economic cost of the lockdowns meant to prevent its spread.
Before the pandemic hit, we seemed to be part of a world that was moving so fast and was filled with indulgences and distractions that turned our attention away from what is truly important. The simple things didn’t seem like enough for us. Maybe we worked too much and didn’t spend enough time with our family. Maybe we spent our money on things we didn’t really need, thinking they would bring us happiness. Maybe we were more self-centered and neglected to take care of our homes and communities.
Then came the pandemic, and we were forced to slow down and ask ourselves some hard questions: What things are most important in my life? After so many things are taken away, what do I still have?
Over the course of this year I’ve asked myself these questions and the answers I came up with pointed me back to the basic truths that I already knew: Our connection to God is fundamentally important. As are family and friends. Our ability to live simply to afford enough food and other essentials is a tremendous blessing. And of course, our health is the greatest gift of all.
This strange time of uncertainty and isolation has helped me recognize what I knew already in my heart that when the unessential things are stripped away, we still have many good things to be thankful for. The things I appreciate now are the most basic things: my children, the love and affection of my husband, and being able to not only have work but to have work that is meaningful and fulfilling. I am also grateful for my connection to God the faith I have developed over time sustains me now.
Gratefulness Makes the Soul Great
I remain grateful too for the friendship of Christians and their sincere and abiding love for Israel and the Jewish people. Our supporters have enabled us to feed hungry people, provide essential aid to everyone from Jewish orphans to Holocaust survivors, and help Jews make aliyah (immigrate to Israel) from countries where they are threatened by poverty and anti-Semitism. I am so thankful that because of our generous partners, we have been able to increase our aid during this difficult time.
Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel, one of the great Jewish thinkers of the 20th century, once wrote, “How strange we are in the world, and how presumptuous our doings! Only one response can maintain us: gratefulness for witnessing the wonder, for the gift of our unearned right to serve, to adore, and to fulfil. It is gratefulness that makes the soul great.”
Rabbi Heschel’s words have touched my soul, especially this year. They remind me that I have so much to be thankful for every day. I hope that they touch you too and that you feel joyful and grateful.
I want to remind you that there is no better way to express our thanks to God than to give to others from what He has given to us. How appropriate then, that we mark “Giving Tuesday” just after celebrating Thanksgiving. It is a chance for us to take the gratitude in our heart and put it into action. Moreover, the Bible tells us, “Give generously … then because of this the Lord your God will bless you in all your work and in everything you put your hand to” (Deuteronomy 15:10). When we give to others, we are blessed, and consequently have even more to be grateful for and even more to give.
My friends, I am sharing this message with you because when God laid it on my heart I felt that this message was meant for all people of faith right now. All of us have been affected by the events and circumstances of the past year. All of us have been exhausted by the world at one point or another physically, spiritually, or both. I want to remind us all that God wants us to tend to our inner world even if that means disconnecting from the outer world for a short while. There is no need to travel; all it takes is some time to rest and a quiet place to hear God speak.
As the holiday season approaches, despite these uncertain times, I pray that our hearts will be filled with gratefulness for the many blessings in our lives, and brim over with thanks to God for all that He has given us. May we continue to be a source of hope and blessings for others. And may we experience ever-greater blessings and never-ending gratitude in our lives.
With blessings from the Holy Land,