"Gratitude" is here. Give Thanks!

We are pleased and excited to announce the release of Rabbi Debra’s timely and long-awaited new album entitled “Gratitude – Receiving Blessings and Giving Thanks as a Spiritual Practice.”

Comprising 14 tracks, including several major sermons, this intensive exploration into themes of gratitude, complaining, and happiness will enlighten you and give you tools to become happier and more authentically grateful.

As I remember the venues where these pieces were originally delivered, I can testify that this is a powerful collection for you and loved ones to experience. At present it is available only as a download from iTunes. There you can purchase or gift the album. (Some of the tracks are also available individually).

Please check it out now. The link will take you to an iTunes Preview Page where you can listen to samples from the album and then click "View in iTunes" for purchasing information. We are very excited about this new release.
-Craig Weisz

In this edition:

Liner Notes - from the new release, Gratitude

The News - A link to a current New York Times article on gratitude

The Story Behind Gratitude - A new essay by Rabbi Debra

Craig’s Corner, notes from the rebbetz-man

Storefront - Find some treasures

Thank you - our appreciation for your support

Liner Notes - from the new album release, Gratitude - Receiving Blessings and Giving Thanks as a Spiritual Practice

The humor, stories, and insights on these tracks will give you something new to be grateful for. The inspiration and practical tools will help you fully take in and enjoy the good that is already in your life, and new-found gratitude will also bring you new blessings.

“Say thank you,” your mother or father may have prompted you as a child. But it turns out that expressing gratitude is more than polite. Social science has shown that feeling and communicating gratitude have countless physical and psychological benefits. It’s not just that happy people are, naturally enough, grateful. Gratitude causes people to become happier.

On these tracks, Rabbi Debra reveals more good news. Not only does gratitude get the “seal of approval” from Mom and from positive psychology, it is steeped in and supported by ancient spiritual teachings and practices. Gratitude is attainable – and contagious. You don’t have to deny the real problems in your life or in the world at large. What may at first seem elusive can become a natural, habitual, and vibrant source of joy.

Track 1 – But Who’s Complaining?
Not even Moses was able to hold his tongue every time he wanted to complain. Should we aspire to a “complaint-free world?” Rabbi Debra honors the values and messages behind our complaining, even as she makes us laugh at the foibles of mindless kvetching. Amidst legitimate grievances, we can reduce complaining and enjoy our blessings more.

Track 2 – Does Everyone Complain?
Are there people who don’t complain at all, and what is their secret?

Track 3 – Best Practices for Complaining
Hopefully, we can eliminate excessive complaining, but most people will still have the urge and need to vent occasionally. How can we do so mindfully and productively? Here, Rabbi Debra introduces the idea of a “complaining covenant.”

Track 4 – Prescription for Happiness
A traditional Jewish blessing requests, “May all the desires of your heart be fulfilled, for the good.” Paradoxically, those who focus on fulfilling all their hearts desires are doomed to unhappiness, as human beings continually generate new wants, quickly accustom ourselves to new-found blessings, and misjudge what will actually make us happy. Gratitude is an unexpected – and powerful – prescription for our own happiness and the happiness of those we meet.

Track 5 – Gratitude in this Moment
Counting your blessings can feel forced, but gratitude can bubble up naturally when you simply pay attention to your surroundings, your body, and your mind as you experience them right now.

Track 6 –Patience, Gratitude, and Dropping the Ball
Responding to a question on the connection between patience and gratitude, Rabbi Debra discusses how to use frustrating situations as a practice ground for cultivating both qualities. In the face of predictable annoyances like traffic jams, long waits, or poor customer service, ritualized responses and funny tag lines can help.

Track 7 –If I Stop Complaining, What Will I Do For Recreation?
Responding to a clever question, Rabbi Debra takes seriously the “bungee cord of habit.” Our comfort level with complaining is very high … until we listen to how we really sound.

Track 8 – On Gratitude
It’s easy to fall into the habit of giving weight and attention to seemingly trivial daily annoyances, but it’s also easy – once we set the intention – to develop the habit of giving weight and attention to seemingly trivial daily blessings. Rabbi Debra offers practical suggestions for increasing gratitude – in small baby steps and in big, bold moves.

Track 9 – Waking Up to Blessings
The Hebrew term for gratitude is hakarat hatov, the acknowledgment of the good. We can take note of our blessings, or we can take them for granted. Rabbi Debra explores the story of Jacob who, in the midst of guilt and pain, literally wakes up to this realization – arising from sleep with the words, “Surely, God was in this place, but I did not know.” She also discusses the Barechu prayer, a reminder and opportunity to follow Jacob’s example and wake up to life’s blessings.

Track 10 – Grateful for Power
It sometimes takes a power outage to make us aware of and thankful for the electricity we routinely enjoy. What power are you dependent upon? The grid? The government? And how might our reliance on such sources of power inform our understanding of divine power in our lives?

Track 11–Halleluyah
The exclamation “Halleluyah!” contains in its etymology a message about why God is worthy of praise.

Track 12 – Grateful for the Sun (featuring Rabbi/Cantor Monty Turner)
Almost everyone has a memory of an extraordinary sunrise or sunset – some remarkable encounter with the sun that brought meaning, joy, and gratitude. And almost everyone takes the sun for granted most of the time. Our own rare experiences and the rare people who maintain their gratitude offer clues for how we can take joy in blessings that are “common.”

Track 13 – Peace Meditation
A sense of peace, along with gratitude, can both prevent and alleviate complaints. Drawing on memory and sensory experience, this meditation reminds us to tap into peace – for ourselves and as a gift to others.

Track 14 – Giving Thanks on Thanksgiving
Addressing an interfaith Thanksgiving gathering, Rabbi Debra reminds us what the holiday is all about. Just a few, small adjustments in mindset and behavior can give us the gift of gratitude – and more reasons than ever to give thanks.

Go to iTunes, keywords Gratitude, Orenstein for purchasing information.

The News - A link to a current New York Times article outlining scientific findings on the value of an authentic and regular practice of gratitude.

A Healthy Serving of Gratitude

The Story Behind Gratitude
by Rabbi Debra Orenstein

It was July. I set out to write the five or six major addresses that I would give over the High Holiday Season. As I do each year, I tried to create a balance of teachings that would speak to the needs of the people who gather to reflect on issues of ultimate meaning: Why are we here? Are we fulfilling our purpose? How can we do and be better in the coming year?

In selecting topics for the Days of Awe, I am, of course, guided by the needs that I perceive in my community, as well as in the wider culture. I strive, too, to speak about what authentically interests and bothers me, both because I am often a good barometer for my community and because people will hear my message if they can feel my soul in the words.

That summer, as usual, I contemplated and researched a variety of themes, but I kept coming back to gratitude. Try though I might, I couldn’t make any other topic work. Finally, I concluded that my failure couldn’t – and shouldn’t – be overcome by persistence. Gratitude was the message. I would give all my High Holiday talks on one subject. I knew that I would take some heat and criticism for this narrow focus. I would be neglecting important and pressing social issues. I risked repeating myself. Yet, somehow, gratitude was the only direction I could take. I decided to trust it and to see where it led.

The response was dramatic – and utterly different than I expected. People were more excited and engaged than I had seen them in years. One congregant astonished me by coming onto the pulpit in the middle of services, taking my microphone, and delivering a very gracious and moving talk about gratitude, as well as a gift to me, in response to my remarks the night before. (It turns out that she had the blessing of the synagogue president to surprise me, but I thought she had stormed the bimah!)

I anticipated that my persistent focus on gratitude would seem excessive, perhaps even grating, to some people. Quite the opposite turned out to be true. People only wanted more. I ended up doing a year-long adult education series on gratitude. I facilitated text study on the subject and created gratitude exercises. Community members paired off as “gratitude partners,” who became long-term allies in the spiritual work of cultivating appreciation and giving thanks. In describing Makom Ohr Shalom, my synagogue in Los Angeles, I had often quipped that it the most loving and welcoming place on earth – including Disneyworld. Gratitude enhanced an already beautiful synagogue culture. It changed all of us for the better.

But the story doesn’t end there. The topic continued to resonate for me. I continued to read about it, think about it, and, occasionally, again, speak about it. When I left Los Angeles and moved across the country, I brought it to my new spiritual home, Congregation B’nai Israel. People were again receptive, and that is one of the many reasons that I am so grateful for my new and adventurous community.

Following High Holidays this year, I was asked, as the newest member of the clergy in the area, to speak at the local Inter-faith Thanksgiving Service. A live recording of that talk is the last track on our new release. The beat goes on…

Looking back at my spiritual path and growth so far, I recognize that I have learned through immersion. Of course, as a rabbi, I am privileged to study many topics, and I get to follow other people’s curricula, as well as my own. But I have also spent years reading, writing, thinking, and speaking about one main topic at a time: ritual, midrash, ways into Jewish spirituality, and, most recently, gratitude. I write that “I chose” the topics, because that is accurate, and I could offer the reasons and history, the whys and wherefores. But my felt experience is that these topics chose me. Gratitude, in particular, chased me down. I am so very thankful that it demanded my attention.

I wish you the gift of gratitude, along with all the joys and benefits it brings. I hope that this and other worthy topics will grab hold of you, as you, in turn, embrace them.

A special thank you to Rabbi/Cantor Monty Turner, who granted permission to use his voice and interstitial music on all the RabbiDebra CD's, included our newest release, Gratitude.

Craig’s Corner, notes from the rebbetz-man

People come up to Debra regularly and ask for a written copy of a sermon or a speech she has given, and that proves difficult because – if I can give away a secret – she doesn’t usually write her talks down. That’s not say she doesn’t prepare. She prepares studiously, diligently, and with thought, prayer, and heartfelt emotion. She develops themes and knows the major points she’s going to cover in any address. But what she takes with her up to the bimah, lectern, or podium, is usually a collection of seemingly chaotic notes. When it comes to delivering a message, she doesn’t want to just be reading; she wants to be in the moment with you. And that’s our special gift.

What it means in a practical way, though, is that the only way to receive these messages, this inspiration, and instruction - if you are not there with her - is to listen to a recording. And that’s my job. I try to record all of Debra’s speaking, and it is my pleasure to work with her to cull the best material, edit it and clean up the sound, and create something special and lasting to share with the world. If I were to win the lottery, I would devote a great portion of my time to this practice, not only because she is my wife and I love & support her – but because of the feedback we get. It is truly inspiring to hear how these albums affect and improve people’s lives.

Especially at this season I find myself feeling grateful for my wife, for her love, support, tolerance, and constant efforts to improve the level of happiness in our family. The theme of gratitude has been prominent in our lives for several years, and I can say that its practice has value - enlightening, curative value. It works. This new album has been like another child to us. We love its message. We are awed by its power, and we are so, so excited to see it go out in the world and meet you.

Storefront - Find some treasures!

In addition to our other audio teachings available as CD's and downloads on the website, we also have an Amazon storefront with Jewish and used books, including some that are hard to find. Please take a look:

Amazon Storefront

Click on the CD's above for more information on our other audio teachings
you can have with you at home or on your way. Also available on iTunes.


We truly appreciate all the kindness and support our community and followers have given us.

We hope this new album will be something of value for you, and we always appreciate your feedback about the albums, the newsletter and the website.

Craig Weisz