Thoughts for Food by Rabbi Jill – Attitude of Gratitude

Thanksgiving is an opportunity to reflect on the blessings in our lives and how Jewish tradition helps us cultivate gratitude. One of my favorite camp memories is singing birkat hamazon in the chadar ochel after dinner. It is often filled with so much ruach that no one notices that it is so long! This is contrast to hamotzei, where the atmosphere feels less patient and more rushed to get through the short one-line blessing so that we can finally eat. In fact, the concept of birkat hamazon stems from the Torah itself — “And you shall eat and be satisfied and bless your God” — whereas hamotzei is categorized as a later rabbinic mitzvah. Jewish tradition understands that perhaps it is easier to truly cultivate gratitude on a full stomach.

In the book “The Happiness Advantage,” Shawn Anchor talks about the importance of having a positive mindset. He claims that positivity breeds engagement, creativity, energy, and resilience. He encourages people to find three things to be grateful for each day. This practice alone will enable people to create a more positive mindset. Jewish tradition states that we should say 100 blessings a day; Shawn Anchor encourages at least three.
Here are some ways, as a family, that you can reflect together on how to create an attitude of gratitude:

– Ask, what are three good things that happened to you today? What about this meal makes you particularly grateful?
– What does it feel like to be hungry? How can this feeling give us more compassion for those who do not have access to food? How can we share some of our blessings with them?
– Where did the food from this meal come from (before the grocery store)? What had to happen for it to grow? In addition to the food, what and who else should we be thankful for? How did God play a role in getting us our food?