The Gratitude Craze
by Robin Feldman
I would like to speak briefly today about a trend I have noticed in popular culture. It relates to the notion of gratitude, and I am beginning to see references to gratitude in many places. High school and College graduates, for example, are being encouraged to wear gratitude scarves. And the New York Times recently devoted an entire feature article to the importance of gratitude in our lives. Among other things, the article reviewed studies showing that people who feel gratitude for the small things in life lead a happier and more fulfilled existence.
As I read through the article, it occurred to me that there is something missing from a Jewish perspective. So what could that be? After all, the word “Jewish” itself is related to the notion of gratitude. The word “Jewish” comes from the word Judaism, which is derived from the name of the tribe of Judah. Judah, of course, was the fourth son of the matriarch Leah. When her fourth son was born, Leah felt that she been given more than her portion in life, and to express her gratitude, she choose a name for her son that meant praise of G-D.
And that, I believe, is what was missing from the New York Times. Throughout the entire long, rambling article, there was not a single mention of G-D. If, as the article suggests, we are supposed to feel gratitude for the small things in life, just whom are we supposed to be grateful to?
For myself, I did not develop a deep sense of connection with G-d and with Judaism until later in life. Being an academic, that connection came in an academic manner—by studying Torah and the ancient texts and commentaries that surround it. It was the JSN that opened the doors of study to me. For that, and for many other things, I am deeply grateful.