This week’s Torah portion provides us with a beautiful, luscious description of the land of Israel; a place dripping with honey, flowing rivers and streams, a rich, fertile land which will provide more than enough for the needs of the people about to enter. A land where they may “eat food without stint, where you will lack nothing” (Deut 8:9); an idyllic paradise. But it comes with a warning not to imagine that this good fortune comes our way because of any intrinsic merit within us. We are not to grow haughty and arrogant, to believe that we are better or more worthy because we have a newfound abundance. Instead, we are to always remember our humble beginnings, to appreciate what we have and to be grateful for the blessings in our lives. How wise the Torah is about human nature! How often do we see people attaining wealth or power and becoming more convinced of their own invincibility and their own entitlement with every dollar they amass? How often have we seen fame and power change a person and the way they treat the world and those around them? We often hear about faith in times of adversity, but in some ways it can be more difficult to hold onto our faith and our ideals in times of abundance and plenty for it is then that we are vulnerable to feelings of superiority based on our comfort levels, complacency which is born of lives of material wealth and security. The Torah reminds us in these moments to take stock, to recognize that the blessings we are fortunate to enjoy in our lives are gifts, not entitlements. They are beautiful, precious presents which we have been lucky to receive, and for each one we should be grateful.
Judaism is not an ascetic religion, it impels us to enjoy the world and its abundance but not in an unfettered way. We are to share our blessings with others. But we cannot do that unless we recognize the gifts we have been given, to take moments to be grateful for what we have. Today, we hear much about the need to be mindful and practice mindfulness. Judaism calls to us to take time every day to give thanks for what we have. We are to say 100 blessings every day, each one an opportunity to stop and appreciate what we have and to acknowledge our good fortune; to be mindful of the blessings of the everyday, which we may otherwise take for granted.
I pray that we can all be thankful for the gifts in our lives and accept them with humility, grace and goodness.