Recently, in anticipation of the US holiday of Thanksgiving, Rabbi Steinsaltz was asked, “What are you thankful for?” Rabbi Steinsaltz replied:
What am I thankful for? The best answer is that it depends on the day, the mood, the period.
Some days I am not thankful for anything, just angry and irritated.
Of one in such a mood, expect the answer: “I’m thankful for you going away and not bothering me with such questions.”
In a different mood, my thanks may be so varied, so abundant: for the blue sky, for the sun ray through a cloud, for the very minuscule bird that chirps on the branch, or for someone in the street who, out of nowhere, just smiles.
Formal gratitude lists – what we feel obliged to be thankful for, for life, food and water, company and family – can ring hollow.
Yet there are times – even in the darkest of times – when, granted a slight shift in perspective, I can sincerely say thanks for the pain and the suffering; for being aware that I do exist, that I can suffer and that I can also hope.