BLESSING THE SEA – ISSUE 12, December 2021 “Gratitude in Hard Times”

“True gratitude involves a humble dependence on others: We acknowledge that other people—or even higher powers—gave us many gifts, big and small, to help us achieve the goodness in our lives. . . With gratitude comes the realization that we get more than we deserve.”

— Robert Emmons “Why Gratitude Is Good

2021 started as a year of losses and great uncertainty. My husband and I lost a dear friend to COVID, a realtor who helped us buy our home. Some of our relatives went through debilitating bouts of the disease.

In spring, with vaccinations made available, life began, in fits and jumps, to normalize. Our kids went back to their school campuses, and though we did not travel, we could again enjoy live performances of the reopening LA Opera and LA Phil.

I taught all year online, large classes, with students sheltered with their families wherever they were in the US, or abroad. Some students would join my courses live from Armenia, Czech Republic, Colombia, Egypt, Japan, Korea, Peru, and Ukraine. Living with apprehension and adjusting to the ever-changing present has become the new normal.

It’s the times like this that remind us to be grateful for what we’ve been given. This post-traumatic gratitude, the subject of my latest AJS post, benefits us psychologically and spiritually.

Overcoming a painful event prompts us to feel thankful for survival and well-being. “From suffering grows meaning, when we can recognize the sparks of goodness that still exist even amidst our pain.” [. . .]

Grateful to be an adoptive Dad, I was glad to have an opportunity to share insights into foster/adoptive policies and mandates with prospective parents on the #1 adoption site. [. . .]

Surreal, nostalgic, and Chernobyl-esque creepy is what my campus office felt after being gone for almost 2 years. A carpet of dust on the chotchkes and the keyboard; the Jewish calendar still open on the month of Kislev (Dec. 2019). Yet, the trees outside have grown 6 feet, their foliage huge and lush, with just a smattering of students traversing an impeccably clean campus.

In some ways, the COVID pandemic is strikingly similar to the ‘Spanish flu’ outbreak of 1918-19. This UCLA podcast examines California’s responses to both events, including the rise of xenophobia, and the economic effects “then” and “now.” It is also a reminder that all pandemics end. [. . . ]

2,000 years ago, the Magdala Stone (see below) bearing depictions of the Jerusalem Temple stood in the center of a synagogue and was used as a table for opening the Torah during public readings. To me, it’s a symbol of continuity and resilience. Romans destroyed the Temple, but Jewish worship endured and transformed, moving into the synagogues.

A new Sanhedrin Trail (see BTS 11) exhibition includes the Magdala Stone as well as other rare ancient artifacts from the Mishnaic and Talmudic periods. [. . .]

Emirates funding Israel to desalinate water for Jordan in exchange for Jordan’s electricity? A joint Jewish/Arab mission to the Moon? There is a lot of hope for peaceful, respectful co-existence coming out of the recent Abraham Accords [. . .].

As one calendar year ends, and another begins, I see knowledge rising out of trauma, trust out of doubt, and hope out of uncertainty. May it be a good year! Ken yehi ratzon!


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