Beshalach 5780 – An Attitude of Grattitude

By: Dr. Jeffrey Buch

In this parshah, G-d splits the Red Sea and the Israelites are so grateful as to sing the Song by the Sea.  They lack food in the desert, albeit briefly, and complain to G-d who then provides manna and quail, yet they continue to complain.  Was it ever enough for our ancestors then?  Is it ever enough for us today?

Do I bow my head in gratitude, or easily slip back into mind-numbing amusement?  Do I bow my head in gratitude, or simply slip back into my typical mind and time-consuming work?  Do I bow my head in gratitude, and hold on tightly to all whom I love?

Life is filled with choices, decisions and living in full measure with the ramifications and consequences of our decisions.  Sometimes, we feel that we don’t deserve the negatives that have followed our decisions.  And yet, how often are we oblivious to all the wonderful positives in our lives that we seemingly had little or nothing to do with?

An attitude of gratitude can make all the difference in how we manage the ups, the downs, and the sideways moments in our lives.  It is certainly OK to want more, to strive for more, but it is so much MORE functional to be happy with whatever we have.

In our daily lives, we take for granted that when we click a switch the light will turn on, that when we click the remote the channel will change on cue, or more importantly that the volume on the TV will be muted when we push the mute button.  Do we truly realize that the amenities and peaceful existence we have as individuals even of the middle class in current day USA leave us so much better off and safer than were the lives of Kings and Queens in the Middle Ages?  The average life span today is so much greater, sanitation is better, the food supply is safer, we have indoor plumbing, electricity, cell phones, internet, streaming music and video.  We have better entertainment and nourishment at our fingertips than what the Royalty had in times gone past.  We have freedom of speech, freedom of expression as evidenced in popular music and fashion.  Why shouldn’t we be happy with our lot?  And yet we are not!  Shabbat is a space in time for us to take a deep breath and pause to smell the roses, as they say.  Shabbat is our time in space, a seeming contradiction of terms, in which we can pause and ask ourselves, “Who created all of this?”

Please pause for a moment this Shabbat and think about infinity.  Is it linear, is it circular, is it the ever- expanding universe, is it the ever inwardly expanding human mind and consciousness, is it all of these and more?  YES!!!  How do we explain the grandeur of the infinite?  How do we explain the space, the pause, in time that Shabbat creates?  How can we acknowledge with gratitude all that has been bestowed upon us?  Of these first two of three questions there is no answer that words or thoughts can express and there is no answer, simply the ability to relate to their imposing nature.  On the last of these three questions, How can we acknowledge with gratitude all that has been bestowed upon us?  The answer is a smile, a simple thank you to each other, or a prayer to G-d.  Not a prayer of asking for that which we do not deserve, but rather a prayer that expresses gratitude for all that we have been given to this day and that we have done little or nothing to deserve.

Let us not look at one another and superficially assume that some of us have not worked, worried, cried and suffered through circumstance that we don’t dare admit to or share when we compose our appearance and present so well to each other.  What is that line… appearances can be deceiving?  Yet, protective amnesia is such that it allows us to discount the trials and tribulations that preceded our moments of peace and appreciation.  This is another gift from Hashem.  Let us celebrate together this Shabbat.  Shabbat is that proverbial pause that refreshes.  Let us celebrate an attitude of gratitude, even if our current individual situations do not fit a space in time at which we feel able to pause and refresh.  Since we do know that the time for each of our own next Shabbats, our times to pause and refresh, are surely soon at hand.  Let us pause and remember, that we do have much to be grateful for, even in uncertain and soul-trying times.  I am so grateful to share this prayer of gratitude with all of you today!

Shabbat Shalom!