What am I grateful for? This question has come up at many of the community Shabbat celebrations I have attended. Sometimes the question comes in the form of a request to name a highlight of the week, to which most people answer, “I am most grateful to be here, with all of you!” And I am sure it is true. Shabbat can feel like a relief, and it feels nice to share that sense of relief with others who value this time enough to have attended such a gathering. Each of us is there, trying, in our own capacity, to press the stop button, to add some sense of humanity, of belonging, and perhaps a little bit of the sacred to our lives, and it feels good.
And yet, I have also felt this expression of gratitude for being together to be low hanging fruit, grabbed out of convenience in the moment the question is asked; if the highlights we shared with people who don't know us were more personal, this might actually make us feel more unique and isolated, just when we were trying to feel connected.
I never suspected, though, that taking the ritual of talking about highlights of the week into the home setting would change this dynamic so profoundly. It helped that in our Parenting Through a Jewish Lens class it was suggested that we might want to use the Blessing of the Children as an opportunity to recognize our kids for one of their personal triumphs that week, and then for parents to turn to each other and share an appreciation of each other. Hearing a reflection of what stood out for others about our behavior set a tone for subsequent conversation that helped bring the sacred sweetness of Shabbat into our relating with one another. It helped us to see the best in each other and focus on the personal strengths we bring to the things we do. Highlights were no longer about good things that just happened to us, but more about actions we had taken that had a positive impact on ourselves and those around us.
May these rituals and conversations continue to help us grow, reflect, and take positive actions that strengthen our relationships within and beyond our families. Thank you Parenting Through a Jewish Lens.