IN 1986, as the title character of “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off,” Matthew Broderick spoke some of my favorite words ever uttered on the silver screen: “Life moves pretty fast. If you don’t stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it.”
I love that this time of the year, as we emerge from the Jewish High Holiday season and move into our American holiday season, we are asked to shift our focus. The Jewish High Holidays task us with deep introspective reflection, and require an examination of ourselves, our actions, our relationships, and with doing the work to repair any rifts, any divides, any conflicts. Then, we turn a corner into November and the American holiday season challenges us to give abundant thanks and to express our gratitude for our many blessings. We move from inward reflection to outward gratitude!
Of course, gratitude is a helpful frame of mind to maintain in all seasons of our lives. Judaism actually has a built-in framework that can help us think about our season of thanks-giving. Every morning, in the modeh ani prayer we say thank you for having woken up and for the gift of our breath. Every week on Shabbat, we cease from work and focus on nurturing our relationships: with our self and with others in our lives. At special moments we say, the shehechiyanu, a blessing that reminds us to express gratitude for this moment, acknowledging that it is unique, special, and will never come again.
Judaism also commands us to remember that even at times of joy and celebration we must also acknowledge the sadness, destruction and brokenness in our world. At a Jewish wedding we break a glass to remember the destruction our people have endured. At the Passover Seder we dip our parsley in salt water to symbolize the tears of those who are suffering. And, in this season of Thanksgiving and holiday cheer, we must also stay awake to the devastation so many people in our country, and in our communities, have recently endured from hurricanes, gun violence and the fires ravaging our state.
As we express our gratitude, let’s also remember Kol yisrael arevim ze la zeh – all of us are responsible for one another. Members of our extended community are still in need of our help and I encourage us all to continue to give. Perhaps, this November, volunteer your time with one of our many community organizations that are engaged in advocacy, organizing and working towards repairing our world (many opportunities can be found on our community calendar at jewishsgpv.org).
As we move closer to Thanksgiving, I encourage all of us to take the time to “stop and look around once in a while.” Take a step out of our constant movement, running around from one errand or task to the next and invite moments of gratitude. I personally am thankful to all of you who make this community so vibrant. What is it that you are thankful for?
Jason Moss is the Executive Director of the Jewish Federation of the Greater San Gabriel and Pomona Valleys. He can be reached at email@example.com.