As we prepare for Thanksgiving, we’re urged to focus on gratitude. But, what do we do when we’re not feeling so grateful? What do we do when we’re feeling lost, overwhelmed, confused? A quick Google search will provide you with lots of techniques that will help you foster gratitude. Most of these techniques encourage you to pay attention to the blessings in your life. But, let’s be honest, sometimes we feel that the blessings are lacking. What do we do then?
Fortunately, Judaism has a very simple answer.
At the beginning of time, the Torah tells us, when “the earth was astonishingly empty, and darkness was on the face of the deep,” the breath of the mouth of God hovered “over the face of the water.” (Genesis 1:2) This divine breath was exhaled moments before creation began, moments before, from the holy mouth of God, came the first divine utterance: “Let there be light” and there was light. (Genesis 1:3) Most aspects of the world that God goes on to create are brought about in the same way. Just like with light, God speaks things into existence. Not so with us. The Torah tells us that God breathed into humanity’s nostrils the soul of life, and with this holy breath, humanity came to be. (Genesis 2:7) The breath of humanity, started by the breath of God, continues to this very day. Because of this breath, we are.
When you’re feeling that there’s nothing to be grateful for, focus on your breathing. Science teaches us that by doing so, we can calm ourselves down, reduce our stress levels and create a sense of ease. Judaism teaches us that by doing so, we can reconnect with our source, with God, with the holiness of the universe. And when we reconnect like this, we have a few moments to pay attention to the reason that we are and this gives us something to be grateful for.
Whether it’s by finding some time to breathe, surrounding yourself with family and friends and/or counting your many blessings, Cheryl, Abigail, Jonah and I wish you all a very happy Thanksgiving.