When gratitude is the most difficult to find, it is the time we need it the most. Today feels bleak to many, hard and scary. Reaching toward being thankful can seem like a monumental task for which we need the nurturing presence of grace.
The Tent of Gratitude
A Rabbi and Student were on a journey. They lived in the days when sandals to the sand, and eyes to the rocky girth of terrain was how one traveled.
“Where are we going?” asked the Student.
“We will know when we arrive”, answered the Rabbi.
They walked far into many days and slept far into many nights. The Rabbi joyously prayed with arms stretched up to the sky, but the student prayed with eyes hardened to the difficult path.
At last the Rabbi exclaimed in jubilant tones, “We are here! We have found it!”
“Finally,” moaned the Student as quietly as possible. “This trip has been misery.” Of course, the Rabbi heard the Student, but said nothing.
And so they came to a tent that was as round as the moon. Its frame was made of gold and silver and inscribed with prayers written of inlaid wood and gems. Translucent fabrics of rich colors and textures beyond any artistry either of them had ever seen hung from the posts. Though the sun was high, there seemed a perpetual twilight within. It enclosed them like hands offering welcome and comfort.
“Rabbi, what place is this?”
“This tent is made of all of the holy arks that ever were and ever will be. It holds every prayer, joy and sadness, hope and love that ever was and ever will be. It is where true healing can begin.”
And then in the fleeting beat of an angel’s wing, the scent of holiness that the Student had only surmised in dreams filled the air.
The Student’s heart expanded with awe, which turned to deep peace, and then faced what the student fought with the most. The Student, at last, felt a connection to the wholeness of life and happiness for being alive.
The Rabbi had deep thankfulness for the Student’s long sought for awakening.
The Student felt genuine gratefulness for the first time.
Tears flowed for them both.
The Rabbi knew that gratitude, hakarat ha tov-the recognition and return to goodness– was the last lesson the Student needed.
“Now,” offered the Rabbi,” you understand why this place does not need light. It only asks that those who visit become like the moon and reflect forward its teaching from this source of sacredness of connection and gratitude.
And so with that, the Student and the Rabbi truly prayed together for the first time.
We are in the holy hands of the Jewish New Year-The High Holy Days. We look back at the year coming to its end, and we look toward the year about to begin. We do teshuva, known to most as ‘repentance’, to atone for our short fallings. But teshuva really means ‘to return’. We are invited to return to the welcoming love that the Divine, Nature, all the Beloveds in our lives(that means all of us which now may seem a daunting task), and Ourselves (another difficult place for many to be) that we may have turned away from and created a disconnected space in our spirits.
So ‘tshuvah’ means to return to being connected so we feel whole again. When we ‘return’, we ‘connect’, or rather we ‘re-connect’ to what we have been separated from.
Gratitude is a path we can take on our way to teshuvah. The Hebrew term for it is ‘hakarat ha tov’ which means, literally, ‘recognizing the good.’
When we do teshuvah with thankfulness, when we come back to our source as pure souls, as with a lover, the Great Compassion of Gratitude loves and cleanses us. This place we return to is the source of the connection that we seek to rekindle for the new year.