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Practicing Gratitude on Rosh Hashanah


Being grateful is a central theme of Judaism, especially on Rosh Hashanah when we take inventory of all the blessings in our lives. We turn to God and offer thanks for our abundance, even during the darkest times.

In one of the most recognized and quoted texts in Jewish thought, Pirke Avot (written around the year 200 CE), we learn “Who is rich? Those who rejoice in their own portion.”

The Hebrew term for gratitude is hikarat hatov, which means, literally, “recognizing the good.” Scientific studies prove what the Jewish sages have told us all along—practicing gratitude leads to a more fulfilled, purposeful life. Developing the habit of being grateful helps rewire the brain to be more optimistic, which leads to better relationships, improved health, and overall happiness. In fact, the Talmud tells us to recite 100 blessings a day. The term for “blessing” in Hebrew is bracha, which comes from the same root as the Hebrew word for “knee” as we bend our knee in an act of gratitude.

On this Rosh Hashanah, I reflect on a year that challenged me with some hardships, including taking care of my sick mom who passed away at the age of 91 and at the same time focusing my energy and attention on my oldest child who was struggling with his own physical and mental health. What I’m grateful for this year, more than anything, is the strength and wisdom I gained from being a loving daughter and mom during these tough times. Yes, I miss my mom everyday, and I’m grateful she is no longer in pain and is at peace. And although no parent likes to see her child suffer, I’m especially grateful that my son–through true soul searching–has achieved significant personal growth, and our relationship is closer than ever.

Last year, it was my son’s idea to create a gratitude jar. He asked everyone in our family to write on a tiny piece of paper one thing, big or small, that we are grateful for every single day (the taste of homemade apple cobbler with extra crumb topping, the summer rainstorm so I didn’t have to water the plants, the weekend and a break from school, cuddling with our dog Luci, earning enough money to buy new tennis shoes, friends who are fun to hang out with, air conditioning, medicine that keeps us healthy, etc.). At the end of the week on Shabbat, he asked us to come together at the kitchen table to read everyone’s thoughts scribbled on a folded piece of paper. We laughed, we even cried (or at least I did). We connected with each other, and for that I’m most grateful. Being grateful doesn’t always come easy for everyone. It sounds simple enough, but some of my family resisted this exercise at first. Sometimes, out of habit, it’s easier to complain about everything that goes wrong than to recognize the goodness of simple things—a working washing machine, a fresh gallon of milk in the refrigerator, a tank full of gas in the car, the Internet, spending time with an aging grandparent, cooler weather and colorful leaves falling from trees, music that puts me in a good mood and makes me want to dance…It takes practice to be grateful. The more often we recognize the blessings in our lives and physically write them down, our bounty seems to grow.


During the 10 Days of Awe, from Rosh Hashanah to Yom Kippur, is a good time to reflect on what we are grateful for.

10 Things I’m Grateful For This Year

  1. First and foremost, my family and when we gather for a meal, real conversation, and a hearty laugh.
  2. My family’s health. I never take for granted when the body is working like it should because sickness can strike at anytime.
  3. Laughter! I love laughing so hard that I can barely breathe, even if I pee in my pants.
  4. Cooking with my son, who inspires me to get creative in the kitchen with chickpeas, turmeric and acai berries (not necessarily in that combination).
  5. Once in awhile when my teenage daughter still asks me to lay with her for “five minutes”—even when I’m in the middle of doing something else. She’s off to college next year, so those moments I cherish.
  6. My husband for working hard so that I can be a stay at home mom and continue my freelance writing career.
  7. My juicer that makes yummy and healthy strawberry banana smoothies for a quick breakfast.
  8. My friends who encouraged me to go to Israel and continue to offer exciting opportunities to explore my Jewish identity and be more involved in my community.
  9. Coffee (with Bailey’s) and chocolate covered almonds.
  10. My freedom to express my point of view and practice my religion, and my right to vote in the upcoming election (God help us all).

 What are you grateful for?

Read my previous blog on the real meaning of Rosh Hashanah, a time to show up and do the work.