This week’s Middah, הכרת הטוב /Hakarat HaTov – GRATITUDE, is a perfect character trait to notice within us and to continue to cultivate more of.
In the Passover Haggadah we are reminded of the word Dayenu, ‘it would have been enough’. This song is based on a Psalm that reminds the Jewish People: If God had only taken us out of slavery it would have been enough. If God only gave us the Torah, that would have been enough. But there was more. We were given the Land of Israel, the Shabbat, the Holy Temple, holidays to celebrate, food to eat, drink to quench our thrust. Any one thing would have been enough of a gift, but in fact we have so much!
In developing our Gratitude it is helpful to be ‘grateful for the partial’ (click for a video). So often we have a fine day until X, or Y, or Z happens, and then suddenly we forget all the perfectly fine things that happened. Hakarat HaTov reminds us to accept the good as genuinely good, and not let the negative in our life so easily overshadow the positive. As it turns out, our brains are wired to notice unpleasant threatening stimulus, but we can also notice the good.
I once heard a story of a Spanish Sea Captain who would put on his reading glasses every time he ate strawberries.
“Why do you do that,” his crew finally asked.
The captain replied, “I love strawberries. The difficult things in life always seem bigger than they really are, so I wanted the good things to appear bigger too.”
Practicing the Middah of HaKarat Hatov – Gratitude.
מחשבה/Machshava (Thoughts): One time each day, take some time to consider something nice, good, or kind. It might be a loved one, a great song on the radio. It might be chocolate. Spend a few min. thinking about it. Being ‘grateful for the partial’ means noticing that this person, thing, or activity is somehow part of your life. Where do you feel this gratitude? Maybe a warmth in your chest? Perhaps a smile comes across your face.
מעשה/Ma’aseh (Action): Three times each week, make a ‘gratitude list’. Actually write down 5 people, activities, or things that make your life better. Each time you sit to write your list, be sure not to repeat previous items. If it is possible, reach out to another person to share your gratitude – especially if they are involved or responsible for what you are grateful for.
Feel free to leave a note about who or what you are grateful for.