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Thanks in Advance

11/24/2020 04:19:28 PM


A word about Thanksgiving: It would seem easy to be grateful when we have everything we could want. Over the course of his life, our ancestor, Jacob, sees the fulfillment of his father’s blessings and is reconciled with the brother he stole them from. He is father to at least 13 children, all of whom continue in his faith. Even his lost son is restored to him, and he is fortunate to bless not only his children but dozens of grandchildren. He and his family accumulate great wealth, first working for Uncle Laban in Haran, then as spoils of war at Shechem, and then eventually in Egypt as well. While Jacob frequently expresses gratitude in his life, near the end of his days when he meets Pharaoh, he declares the days of his life to be “few and bitter.”

Ironically, Jacob is at his most grateful when that is all in the future. We read this week in parashat Vayetzei that Jacob finds himself fundamentally alone, in the dark of night, fleeing his murderous brother, sleeping with only stones for a pillow, heading towards an uncertain future. When God grants Jacob a vision of angels on a ladder, Jacob awakens with tremendous hope, creates a monument, and vows that he will give a tenth of all in gratitude.

Jacob shows us that gratitude often requires work to cultivate, and reminds us that it is possible to be grateful even in dark times, when we are alone and scared. Many years, we may take for granted Thanksgiving gatherings with extended friends and family, and all of the other blessings that we have in life (even the opportunity to shop on “Black Friday"). This year, many of us are missing being together with people who are dear to us, and those who do gather hopefully realize just what they are risking by doing so.

And yet, like Jacob, even though we may be in the midst of dark, uncertain or lonely times, we have many blessings ahead of us. There is much to be hopeful for in the next few months. I hope we can be inspired by Jacob’s journey to have patience, look ahead to those blessings and be grateful for the opportunities still ahead.

Fri, June 14 2024 8 Sivan 5784