Whole Lot of Torah Going On
Thoughts on Vayishlach

Giving thanks

I try to pause every night, sometime between brushing my teeth and falling asleep, to list for myself the things for which I am grateful that day. It's my end-of-day ritual. Some days the list feels rote, but I maintain the practice anyway, because I want to cultivate feelings of gratitude.

Yesterday was a good day for that practice: (American) Thanksgiving, a holiday which centers entirely around gratitude. Well, and around food. Since Ethan and I both love to cook, Thanksgiving is one of our favorite holidays. We like feasts.

Yesterday we had a total of ten at our table. In typical fashion we had food for at least twenty, including two turkeys that we smoked in our barrel smoker, two pans of dressing, two kinds of mashed potatoes (I especially liked the chipotle sweet potatoes recipe we nabbed from this week's Queer Eye), half a dozen different vegetables, homemade challah, and eventually six pies and a cake. For ten people. What can I say -- we like abundance. In fairness, we didn't make everything ourselves; our feast was potluck. But we went a little overboard, as we always do. I think that's part of the fun. (So is the certainty of good leftovers.)

When we sat down with our laden plates, all eyes turned to me to say a few words before we ate. I knew that our table included Jews, Christians, and at least one adamantly unchurched agnostic, so my challenge was to speak words that would resonate for everyone. I said a few words about being mindful of, and thankful for, the many blessings in our lives, particularly each other and the tremendous spread of food before us. I encouraged us to reflect on our feast's origins: the earth that produced it, the people who stewarded that process, and the ultimate Source from which all blessings flow. I felt pretty good about it. Hopefully it was loose enough to keep everyone at the table comfortable, but strong enough to help everyone actually focus on feelings of gratitude for a moment before digging in.

The day eventually wound down; after cooking, feasting, laughing, talking, hugging, and saying farewells, we spent the evening simmering turkey bones for stock and relaxing on the couch. A fine and low-key end to a really good holiday.

I have a lot to be thankful for. Actually listing all of the blessings in my life is nigh-impossible: they're too many. But if I were to make that list, it would include this blog and its community of readers. So thank you for being here! I wish you many blessings in the year to come, the perspective to notice them as they're happening, and the ability to give thanks.