A Sabbath Message: Choosing Gratitude

"If you concentrate on finding whatever is good in every situation, you will discover that your life will suddenly be filled with gratitude – a feeling that nurtures the soul." — Rabbi Harold Kushner

As Sabbath arrives again, I remember a quote from Albert Einstein: “In the middle of every difficulty lies opportunity”…Indeed, often when we feel the most powerless, it is helpful to realize that we do have control over how we think and perceive our situation. As this crisis continues, that decision to seize the opportunity to exert some power over what we are experiencing is very powerful in itself – and can impact how we cope and face this unprecedented reality – with truly positive outcomes. 

And so, I hope you will join me in CHOOSING GRATITUDE this Shabbat and as we move forward as well. I don’t expect it will always be easy, and this not to say there will not be difficult moments. But when you can, make this choice. I will start: I am grateful for the beautiful sunset I saw on my daily walk the other day – I have included a photo here.

In the Jewish tradition when we witness a wonder of nature, we say a prayer – there are actually a few choices, but one of them is:

“Barukh atah Adonai Eloheinu melekh ha'olam, oseh ma'aseh v'reshit.”
 “You are blessed, our God, Ruler of the world, Source of creation.”

I suggest you try this prayer when you see something beautiful in nature – a statement of gratitude to the universe – and so fitting for Shabbat, the weekly celebration of God’s creation!

I am also incredibly grateful for the wonderful community partners the Jewish Federation has in helping us do our good work now during this crisis, especially the Community Shul of Montecito and Santa Barbara and many other wonderful donors and businesses. Without them, our Hot Meal Delivery Program for so many at home and vulnerable would not be a reality and the Mitzvah it has become.

And I am beyond grateful for the First Responders, the front-line medical workers, and the scientific community all over the world for their tireless passion in fighting this virus. I am also so grateful for the beginnings of some very good news just released this morning…a promising new medication, which is likely to a be an actual treatment and a vaccine out of Oxford University, which may be ready as soon as the fall! Early positive news to be sure, but some rays of hope for us all!

I am grateful for so many things…my family, my friends, my amazing Federation colleagues, and our wonderful Board…and, of course, for all of you. But now…it’s your turn! A few weeks ago, our Executive Director, Cyndi Silverman posed the question: “What are you grateful for?” I would like to ask this again – and encourage you to send me your responses under our new initiative: the CHOOSE GRATITUDE CHALLENGE. I will gather the answers and over the coming weeks, we will share as many as we can with you! Together, we can get through this!!

To close, I will share a Shabbat gift: beautiful Haikus by community member and Holocaust Survivor, Erika Kahn – enjoy the words and the beauty of the video.

Wishing you a peaceful Shabbat – full of grateful moments, 

Ruth Dubin Steinberg, LCSW, MAJCS
Director, Jewish Family Service