These and Those

Musings from Students of the Pardes Institute of Jewish Studies in Jerusalem

Thanksgiving in Israel

Posted on December 4, 2014 by Suzanne Hutt

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Suz HutDuring my second Shabbat in Israel, some friends and I bumped into a couple that one of my friends knew from back home. It was near midnight on Friday night and the couple had just been accidentally locked out of their apartment. As it turned out, my friend’s roommate was out of town, so he had a spare room for them to use. I couldn’t believe this serendipitous encounter. This, I thought, can only be G-d’s doing. How else could we have magically wound up on this street in an unfamiliar neighborhood to run into these people at the exact moment when they needed it most? I wished in the moment that I knew a Hebrew prayer I could say, something to express thanks to G-d for orchestrating this crossing of paths.

After Shabbos, I asked one of my teachers at Pardes if he knew of any such prayer. He shared some ideas, ultimately concluding that there was no one prayer to be said in a serendipitous situation like the one I described to him. Then he said something revolutionary: “You know, you could write your own. After all, gratitude is best expressed in your own words.”

As Thanksgiving approached, I realized just how much the idea of gratitude has played an active role in my life this past year, and all the more so since coming to Pardes. This is the first year that I have said Modeh Ani every morning upon waking up, a prayer thanking G-d for restoring life to my body. It is also the first year that I have kept a gratitude journal every night, recording five things for which I am thankful that day.

Every day at Pardes gives me more and more to be thankful for. Friends, teachers, the amazing resources at my fingertips in the Beit Midrash, and on a broader level, the gift of Torah.

Attending Pardes and living in Israel has also, surprisingly, made me more and more thankful to be an American. While I have been actively connecting with my Jewish identity and strengthening my relationship to the state of Israel, I have also been deepening my love and appreciation for the great US of A. I am proud to be an American, and an American Jew, and I find it so beautiful that Thanksgiving serves as a national opportunity for Americans to pause and give thanks. This Thanksgiving, I am particularly thankful for

my parents, who always encouraged my questions;

my sisters, who paved the way for me on this scary and winding road of life;

my grandparents, who guide me with love and wisdom;

my family members, who make simchas more joyful and sorrows easier to bear;

my friends, who challenge me to be a better person;

my teachers, who help me refine my strengths and confront my weaknesses;

Shabbat, without which I don’t know how I would make it through the week;

“Tov l’hodot l’Hashem,” the song that rings out as the school bell every day, all day, in the school across the street from Pardes;

and the snails that come out when it rains. They remind me to slow down and take stock of all the beauty in the details.

Thanksgiving here in Israel was just a regular ole Thursday. But my friends and I marked the day with a merry, delicious, incredibly meaningful “Friendsgiving.” We sang to our hearts’ content, and as American anthems and folk songs blended with our favorite Shabbat, Chanukah, and Christmas tunes, my heart filled with holiday cheer. In any language, in any country, and on any day of the year, words of gratitude deserve to be shared.