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Yes, 2020 is the perfect year to be thankful

Friday, 27 November, 2020 - 3:15 pm

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Thanksgiving is likely the American holiday most closely aligned with Jewish values. And this year, especially considering all the craziness that has recently played out, is definitely the perfect time to be thankful.

Yes, there’s much about which to gripe but that shouldn’t get in our way of recognizing the blessings too. I mean, when President Lincoln instituted a national day of "Thanksgiving and Praise to our beneficent Father who dwelleth in the Heavens" in 1863, it was still in the middle of the Civil War for goodness sake!

Which highlights a profoundly different perspective of the entire concept of Thanksgiving; it’s not (only) about appreciating the openly good aspects of our life, it’s also about recognizing the blessings within the difficulty that we face too.

We read in this week’s Torah portion about Jacob our forefather who suffered for years under his father in law Laban. Laban was a duplicitous and conniving individual who rescinded every agreement that didn’t result to his benefit. Jacob suffered under Laban for 20 bitter years, constantly being duped and lied to.

Why did Jacob have to endure these 20 difficult years? Chassidic thought explains that Jacob’s experience with Laban was in order to extract “sparks of holiness” that were hidden by Laban. In other words, there was a benefit to be found in all of Jacob’s suffering.

In our own lives too, it’s important to remember that when we experience difficulty, the entire purpose of these setbacks and obstacles are to enable us to grow.

Thanksgiving is not only about recognizing the open blessings in our life (and we all, without exception, have many for which to be thankful); it’s also about realizing that the challenges we face enable us to grow.

Instead of being cynical about Thanksgiving 2020, or bemoaning our current situation, it’s time we discover the inner strength and fortitude we each have.

Now is a good time to step up and express what our recent experiences have taught us, and that’s worthy of true thankfulness and gratitude.

Even better, use that gratitude as a stepping stone to implement positive change in your environment.

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