On Gratitude, Jacob and Giving Thanks

Gratitude. It's the word that's defined my life the most these last few months, as I've journeyed from New York to the playa to the playa of life that never ends, from west coast to lord knows where I'll end up next. I'm grateful for each and every one who's been part of this journey, from those I've met on the road to those who've supported me from beyond at my place of origin to my final destination, wherever that may be.

I've been humbled by the extent to which humans can come through for one another in an outpouring of love and benevolence; the efforts expended by people everywhere for the food we eat, the water we drink and the air we breathe, gifts of the gracious and everlasting spirit that pervades our universe, and the divine orchestrations of our reality that's shown me that we are never alone, we are always taken care of, and we as a planet will always be one, undivided and united in essence.

In the Torah of our time, the weekly portion of "VaYishlach", we learn of Jacob's prayer as he travels. He articulates how he feels small, insignificant, humbled, in relation to the bounty he's received from God. Though it may sound that way, self negation isn't the key to gratitude, Jacob teaches us - our gratitude comes from remembering that what we are receiving is merely a drop in the bucket in relation to the divine goodness that's out there for all of us, if only we tap in. If we adjust our expectations - forget the gold plated toilets and breathe the fresh air instead - and widen our eyes, we can be grateful for everything - for who are we but recipients, what are we but divine emanations of beauty and love and mercy?

Commemorating a historical event that doesn't sit well in our collective national consciousness is tough, and reconciling the cognitive dissonance with Instagrams of pumpkin pie doesn't quite work either. So I'd like to offer a wish and a prayer that we can reconcile the horrors of our past by working to a better future; acknowledging the great benevolence of others toward the hungry and poor throughout times past; and bring down the original harvest celebration of abundance celebrated for timeless years past around the globe, not just in America.

To a future where no one goes hungry and everyone has the facilities to give, receive, and express thanks for everything in between.


On Compassion, Jacob and Parshat Vayetze

Compassion. It's kind of the magical panacea that can cure pretty much anything: Fear; hatred; jealousy; anxiety; ignorance; emptiness; fear; fear and more fear.

Compassion: The genetic child of love and fear, that equidistant point between effusive love that can sometimes suffocate; and severe toughness that can harm even as it teaches restriction and caution.

In the Biblical portion of this week, we learn of the travels of the original entrepreneur Jacob as he discovers himself and starts his family by first returning to the land of his father, to understand the past before he can explore the future.

Jacob's Biblical character, as expounded in mystical Jewish teachings, is likened to the embodiment of compassion; the effusive lovingkindness of his grandfather combined with the severe restriction of his father, to create compassion and beauty; the harmonious midpoint that moves us along that road that is life.

I don't know about all the hate I'm seeing on Facebook lately, or the pure fear that's expressed from ignorance; or the legitimate fear of a world that's changing faster than we can handle; or even unbounded professions of love without the restriction required to qualify and ensure the love results in productive creation of a new world. What i do know is that when we find it hard to forgive; when we find it impossible to love; when we don't know how to stop hating or fearing or loving unboundedly even to our detriment, the magical medicine is always going to be compassion. It's the only thing that can erase the poison of a negative past, and turn it all into beauty and love.

Let's follow granddaddy Jacob on his adventures, and throw that compassion into the mix. The result? Beauty, harmony, love that is elastic and electric.

Shabbat Shalom.