Choose to Shine
Last month I wrote about the incredible power of thanking Hashem for the challenges in our lives, as recommended by Rabbi Shalom Arush. I was fortunate to meet Rabbi Arush in person soon after I composed that column. He radiates true joy, and often breaks into dance. He acts as though he doesn’t have a care in the world. He really doesn’t. He knows with certainty that everything that happens is custom designed, planned, and run directly by Hashem. What a way to live!
Last month I glossed over the obvious – thanking Hashem for the “good” things in our lives, such as free air to breathe 24/7. Later I gave it more thought. I concluded that it is a disservice to only mention in passing the gratitude we should have for the obvious blessings in our lives. So, I will spend our few minutes together delving deeper into that idea – thanking Hashem for the goodness, the blessing, the joy in our lives. That may not be as easy as one might guess.
In order to express thanks, we must first account for and recognize every bit of goodness in our lives. Let’s begin by getting right to the heart of the matter. How often does your heart beat? It likely beats 60-100 beats per minute at rest. Now imagine thanking Hashem individually for every single beat of your heart. You couldn’t keep up, especially not while you are asleep. And while your heart is beating, you are breathing in, then exhaling. You may also be walking, thinking, smiling, reading, or any number of things. Your eyes are seeing, your ears are hearing, your nose is smelling, you can feel things, and taste things. Each one of those senses has millions of various possibilities. There are between 100 million and 18,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000 varieties of colors we can see. We can hear up to 10 octaves, at least until we age. We can distinguish over 1,000,000,000,000 (one trillion) scents. The plethora of variations Hashem engineered are all for our pleasure. We have to be cognizant of this and thank Him for all of it. It would take an eternity to mention our thanks for every kindness we are shown.
Even the opportunity to thank Hashem for His benevolence earns eternal reward. When we say a blessing before and after we eat, drink, or even smell something, we are thanking Him and earning an unimaginable reward for doing so. In truth, there should be a brachah thanking Hashem that He gives us the intelligence to recognize goodness, as well as the lips and tongue to even say the blessing. I suppose if there were, we’d need yet another blessing for having the ability to say *that* one too, and so on.
So now we can begin to realize that there is no way possible for any human being to thank Hashem “enough” even for the good things. We are only human, after all. Even though we are unable to offer a one for one accounting of all the thanks we owe, we can at least attempt to become more aware of the myriad blessings and goodness we each experience every day. With that in mind, we can commit to investing just a little bit more of ourselves and our time into our daily prayers, and into our general state of mind.
Last month the Mayo Clinic published a post in which they show a direct link between feeling thankful every day and improving mental and physical well-being. These include improved sleep, better mood, and higher immunity. Anxiety and depression are decreased, and even chronic pain can be reduced. They suggest that you begin your day with an expression of thanks (sounds familiar – Modeh Ani, anyone?) Positive actions release oxytocin, which is a hormone that boosts connections with others. Another idea they suggest is to keep a gratitude journal. Write down the things for which you feel grateful – things that went well for you, receiving kindness from others, seeing an old friend or even noticing a beautiful scene. Then remember where it all comes from, and that Hashem truly loves you and wants you to have only the best. That can be liberating.