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E-Newsletter - Happy Thanksgiving
November 09, 2012

Happy Thanksgiving

Holiday wishes from our home to yours.

In this Thanksgiving edition, Rabbi Debra offers insight into the spiritual values behind the Thanksgiving holiday and many new resources that, if you take a chance on them, will swell your heart with peace and joy. Thank you for being part of our journey into gratitude and a continuous spirit of Thanksgiving.

Where Gratitude Comes In - a letter from from Rabbi Debra

Free Audio - Our Gift

A Pitch for Gratitude - The CD

Craig’s Corner, notes from the rebbetzin

New Gratitude Resources - Recent additions to the website

Video - A few minutes worth dwelling in fully.

In Appreciation of Your Feedback

Thank you - Our appreciation for your support

Where Gratitude Comes In

Dear Friends,

I am writing this column about Thanksgiving in the South Orange, NJ public library. In the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy, patrons who would normally be irritated at the lack of parking, lack of internet, lack of available electrical outlets, and lack of chairs, are instead deeply grateful that the building is open, free, well-lit, and warm.

When a hurricane takes out trees and homes, when gasoline and electricity are scarce, it’s actually easy for most folks to feel grateful. People are frustrated, but they also look at what they do have, what they haven’t lost. “My cars were totaled by falling trees, but the house is sound.” “We lost the house, but we evacuated in time.” As of this writing, 37 people lost their lives due to the storm in New York City alone. Thousands of people are stuck in high-rise buildings without heat, water, or food. It’s already clear that it will take years to rebuild some areas. Where devastation was total, maps may have to be redrawn. How petty would you have to be to become upset over the interruption of cable service?

We sometimes forget that the first Thanksgiving came after a winter that decimated both the pilgrims and the Native American population. Moreover, the “bountiful” harvest of the fall had to be rationed over the following winter. The settlers might well have become mired in mourning their dead or in fearing for the precarious survival of the 53 who remained. The few documents they left behind instead express gratitude:

William Hilton wrote to his cousin in November of 1621: “Our company are, for most part, very religious, honest people; the word of God sincerely taught us every Sabbath; so that I know not any thing a contented mind can here want.”

Edward Winslow wrote in Mourt’s Relation: “Although [our food] be not always so plentiful, as it was at this time with us, yet by the goodness of God, we are so far from want, that we often wish you partakers of our plenty.”

Sukkot, the biblical holiday after which Thanksgiving was modeled, was chosen as a day to be deliberately and only happy. The Torah instructs: “Vehayita ach sameach - you shall be nothing but happy (Deut. 16:15).” Thanksgiving is likewise a time when Americans choose to be grateful on purpose. The truth is: we have more control over whether we feel happy and grateful than we like to admit. So much depends on where we direct our minds and intentions.

To whom do I compare myself? To the subjects of “Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous” and “Big Rich Texas” or to the folks in Haiti, who still haven’t recovered from the earthquake of almost three years ago and from their last hurricane in August? Whom do I acknowledge for what I have received? Am I aware of the “little people” who make my life possible? Am I aware that they are not little people? Am I aware of God’s hand and blessings?

Martin Buber put it starkly. He wrote that ingratitude is tantamount to theft:

“As we take, it is of the utmost importance to know that someone is giving. One who takes what is given, and does not experience it as a gift, is not fully receiving and so the gift turns into theft. But when we experience the giving, we find out that revelation exists.”

The gift of gratitude is that it opens your eyes. It reveals to you blessings that were hidden in plain sight. The greater gift of gratitude is that it opens your heart. It allows you to actually receive – really take in – the blessings that have been given you. The greatest gift of gratitude is that, when you experience it, all you want to do is pass it on and keep the cycle going. Because you experience a better way of seeing, you build a better world.

I wish you gratitude this year, not just as you sit down to your Thanksgiving dinner, but all year round. May gratitude become your way of seeing in times of trouble and in times of joy; when you suffer, when you are spared, and when nothing “special” is happening. May you never take for granted the gift of life, and may your awareness bring you nothing but happiness.

--Rabbi Debra Orenstein

Free Audio - Our Gift
In light of the experiences many of us have shared in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy, here are audio tracks from the Gratitude teachings album with some timely inspiration.

E-Newsletter Audio Player Page

A Pitch for Gratitude - The CD
If you enjoyed the tracks streamed above, we invite you to hear more. Debra spent an intensive year in the study of gratitude. It’s a powerful theme she returns to continually and the title of her most recent double-cd of teachings precisely because it is so spiritually vital and powerful. This season of Thanksgiving and Hanukah is the perfect time to buy this gift for yourself. In fact, buy two and give one as a gift to someone you care about – as a CD set or a gifted download.

So many gifts provide only momentary joy. A gift of these teachings is sure to spread enduring joy and peace. I promise. Smile and order two now ☺

Craig’s Corner, notes from the rebbetzin

Wow, Hurricane Sandy was shaping up to be a pain. I had a feeling it would be significant along the coast, but in our town (more inland) I thought “One windy night? Not even a lot of rain, what’s the big deal? How bad is it really going to be?" On Monday before the storm I thought, "Did they really have to stop the bus service and close my university campus today? Isn’t this an unrealistic approach? Why can’t I just get on with my business and watch the football game?” Really!

Here’s the thing, though: The next day when I saw downed oak trees littering my neighborhood, the local power grid turned into spaghetti & giant pick-up sticks, and my in-laws’ cars and back deck crushed, I realized it was my stubborn clinging to schedule and agenda that was disconnected from reality. The storm damage captivated me, but what scared me was my realization that I had lost touch, that “reality” was something I had almost stopped seeing, and I wasn’t sure how I was going to escape falling back into that trap as soon as normalcy returned.

Luckily, I married well, and witnessing my wife’s reaction to the crisis reminded me where to find the right path. As we took stock of our family situation, barbequed with neighbors using the contents of our warming freezer, recharged phones at the home of friends who escaped the power outage, and bunked in with relatives who had installed a generator after Hurricane Irene last year, rather than being upset at the inconvenience, I started feeling grateful for what I had – and in that process the true reality of the world around me started coming back into focus.

It shouldn’t have to take weathering a disaster to see the world more clearly. An antidote for the blindness that pride, ambition, and daily delusion bring on is, in fact, the practice of gratitude. You can take powerful action like The Gratitude Visit outlined below, and you can institute the practice every day by looking someone in the eye, pushing back on that stricture of hubris rising in your throat, and saying “thank you” with a smile. It won’t stop the next storm from coming ashore, but it will give you the peace and strength to be more of a mensch and less of a whiner, and to live a more spiritually powerful life. Really.

New Gratitude Resources - Recent additions on the website.

This year Debra has added five additional pages of Thanksgiving resources to the Holidays page. We invite you to check out these new ways in to gratitude.

Gratitude Poetry
- Some of Rabbi Debra’s favorite poems that inspire & express gratitude.

The Gratitude Visit
- The Most Potent Gratitude Practice Measured So Far

Brief exercises that will help you and at least one other person feel grateful and happy for months to come.

Grateful for Being Spared - Prayers and Commentaries
New and traditional resources on the theme of being spared.

Modim Anachnu Lach – We Are Grateful To You
A translation and commentaries on this blessing of gratitude found in the Amidah prayer.

Ma'ariv Aravim – Acknowledging God as Day Changes to Night.
A translation and commentaries on this evening prayer.

Video - A few minutes worth dwelling in fully
The following link is to a YouTube video that we highly recommend:
Louie Schwartzberg's Give Louie ten minutes, and he will give you the gift of gratitude!

In Appreciation of Your Feedback
We always welcome your feedback and online reviews. Please write to us And we are also asking that, if you have listened to our CD's or audio downloads, or read any of Debra's books, please rate them and write online reviews.
Review the audio teachings on Rabbi Debra's iTunes page.
Review the books on her Amazon page.

We so appreciate your help and support.


We always include thanks at the end of our E-newsletters. So let’s put in a pro forma thank you again this month, right? Hardly. As we sign off and say “thank you,” Craig and I are sitting together in our shared office, imagining you, our subscribers, clicking on what we have written. We pray for your welfare and deeply appreciate sharing ideas and community with you. Thank you for your interest and caring. Thank you for taking time to reflect and to nourish your soul.

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