Hope & gratitude: Intro to the 10-day challenge

As a follow-up to my recent lecture at the Manhattan JCC on “Hope & Gratitude Through a Jewish Lens,” I am providing a 10-day Hope & Gratitude Challenge  (#hopeandgratitudechallenge). I hope you enjoy it!

The articles you are seeing today and over the following nine days contain personal exercises and questions for reflection to activate hope and gratitude in your life, based on your individual experiences and temperament. 

At the same time, there is also a larger human context to Hope and Gratitude and a Jewish communal context. 

For the larger, human context, perhaps you joined me for the Positive Psychology Hour where I talked about Hope & Gratitude. Click here for the link to a recording so that you can access that class (again or for the first time). 

The Jewish context is that I am launching this 10-Day challenge on the day after Tisha B’av (the 9th Day of the Hebrew month of Av), a holiday commemorating national Jewish catastrophes. Jews traditionally commence a period of comfort and rebuilding immediately after this day of mourning. The 15th day of the month, Tu B’av, was traditionally (and is again today in Israel) devoted to match-making, dancing, and joy. Hope is activated by adversity, as Barbara Frederickson, a leading researcher of Positive Psychology, teaches. Jews have a tragic history in many ways, yet our tradition is fundamentally hopeful in its outlook. People of every background and belief need hope even when we feel steady and happy — and, even more so, when we feel shaken, shaky, sad, or scared. 

Tisha B’av points to many reasons for gratitude, as well. Yes, Jews lost two Temples in Jerusalem, and we suffered exile and expulsions, pogroms and attempted genocides — but we’re still here! For two thousand years, after the destruction of the second Temple in the year 70 on the 9th day of Av, Jews prayed for a return to Jerusalem. Today, Jews again have access to — and even sovereignty over — Jerusalem. There is still much work to do in order to heal strife within the Jewish community and between Israelis and Palestinians. But we don’t make progress by discounting the blessings we have received or by giving up hope. 

For where we are today, I thank God and the human family.
For where, together, we can progress tomorrow, thank you. 

Now, let’s get started! 

The next article contains today’s exercise.

With love and blessings,
Rabbi Debra

p.s. You are welcome to join me for a Zoom event on Thursday, July 29, 2021 from 8:30-9:15 pm, entitled Commencement: “Sealing” Your New Practice and Carrying It Forward. We will discuss this 10-day challenge, focusing on new insights and your “take-aways.” Sign up for my e-newsletter for the Zoom link!

About the Author
Debra Orenstein, rabbi of Congregation B'nai Israel in Emerson, NJ, is an acclaimed teacher, author, and scholar-in-residence. She is editor of Lifecycles 1:Jewish Women on Life Passages and Personal Milestones and Lifecycles 2: Jewish Women on Biblical Themes in Contemporary Life (Jewish Lights). A seventh generation rabbi, she was in the first rabbinical class at The Jewish Theological Seminary to include women. She earned a Certificate in Positive Psychology and teaches online. Visit RabbiDebra.com to learn more.
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