There is a Jewish value called hakarat hatov, which I believe to be an important discipline for my life. Hakarat hatov means recognizing the good. There are some moments when I find it more challenging to recall good things happening around me and there are other moments when it is easy to do so. No matter what I am feeling or what kid of day I am experiencing, I believe that recognizing goodness is an important everyday activity. When things are going well we are encouraged to remind ourselves of that goodness and to specify the person that helped to make that goodness a reality. It helps us remember the source of our blessings and helps us appreciate the gifts we receive and never take goodness for granted. When things are not going according to our expectations or when we feel that life is not treating us well, hakarat hatov reminds us that despite all of the reasons for upset there is usually still something to be grateful for.
I imagine that this is what Noach, the protagonist of this week’s Torah portion, feels as he emerges from the ark after God destroys all of creation except for the humans and animals inside of the ark by sending a flood. Looking around, the images of destruction that Noach sees must be unimaginable. What Noach sees must shock him. How does he react? Noah responds in two ways. He first offers up a sacrifice to God in appreciation for surviving. As a result God sent a rainbow as a covenant of an everlasting relationship with humanity never to destroy the earth again. And then, once he has ensured that he and his family are safe, Noah blesses his family and their descendents to live on the earth in perpetuity, to take care of one another and to treat other humans kindly. Noach blessing his family and humanity is an example of the gratitude and appreciation that he feels.
As we see pictures of the aftermath of Hurricane Michael and the devastation it has left in its wake, its images may remind us of the aftermath of the flood in the Torah. The loss of lives, homes and businesses leaves its witnesses in a state of shock and sadness. Our hearts go out to anyone who felt great fear caused by the raging storm or experienced loss because of the hurricane. We pray that they find the ability and the strength to gather themselves and their loved ones and to offer one another blessings as they pick up and rebuild together as they live with loss. It is sometimes a tough road back to feeling gratitude but offering blessings to one another even during loss can be a small step towards healing.
This Shabbat let us remember to take a moment for hakarat hatov. We can act on it by calling people in our lives to let them know we appreciate them or just acknowledge them to ourselves and think about the gift of their presence in our lives.
Please join me this Shabbat to celebrate our community and to give thanks to the blessings in our lives. Tonight, 10/12/18 at 6pm we are having a family Shabbat service and are encouraging participants to wear bright colors in honor of the rainbow that God sends in the story of Noach. There will be singing, storytelling and an oneg (nosh) after services.
Tomorrow following our spirited services we will hear from Maital Friedman who will speak about her experiences last summer touring the West Bank through Encounter. I am grateful that she will be bringing her stories to us giving us an opportunity to learn more about this aspect of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
Have a Shabbat shalom,