At morning minyan today we enjoyed the non-rushed pace of a holiday and took some time to read Psalm 148:
...Praise the Lord, all who share the earth:
all sea monsters and ocean depths,
fire and hail, snow and smoke, storms which obey His command,
all mountains and hills, all fruit trees and cedars...
I've always loved this simple, straightforward list of natural wonders, sometimes sung to the tune of "Michael, Row Your Boat Ashore." Today I was particularly struck by the mention of sea monsters and hail, both terrifying and destructive (was King David imagining the Loch Ness emerging from the Dead Sea?). I doubt thanks would be the first words on my lips if I were pelted by a hailstorm. But, fact is, everything comes from God, the bad as well as the good. Maybe the good can't exist without the bad, or they're somehow linked and balanced. All we can know for certain is that our world is filled with wonders, challenges, passions, and rewards, and so there's no excuse for boredom. For this, for the complexity of monsters as well as the simple, self-evidence of mountains, there is no better response than thanks.
Last night I attended the annual interfaith Thanksgiving service held by a consortium of West Side religious organizations, which this year was at a beautiful Roman Catholic church just two blocks away. (I've lived here for eight years and never once walked down that block!--it was like discovering a new part of the city hidden inside the old one.) Both a minister and rabbi quoted Abraham Joshua Heschel (as I did on this day last year):
"It is so embarrassing to live! Only one response can maintain us: gratefulness for witnessing the wonder, for the gift of our unearned right to serve, to adore, and to fulfill. It is gratefulness which makes the soul great."
On this Thanksgiving I'm grateful for the good as well as the bad--because I'm here and alive to experience them both, and have the strength to at least try and tame those sea monsters. Wishing all who read this this a wonderful evening of terrific turkey, and a year filled with abundance and peace.