What a Wonderful World

We get up every day with the opportunity of beginning again. The first prayer we say in the morning is Modeh Ani, where we thank G-d for giving us another day. We are taught that our souls are wiped clean every night as we sleep, whilst our bodies rest and repair. Yesterday is done, we are here in the present and we have the ability to make better decisions, having learnt from our choices in the past.

The ability to self-assess is a skill we learn as we travel through life. At some times, we are more honest with ourselves than at others. Nonetheless inside, we are aware of our strengths and our weaknesses. We are told to look at the big picture and that we become entangled in small things, the inconsequential. Yet all too often, we are so busy looking for the big picture, that we disregard those small daily moments that create a life.

When we are blessed with a newborn child, we literally spend hours watching the baby with amazement. And one day something wonderful happens, baby’s first smile. It’s fleeting and so quick but the value it holds for you is priceless. That smile is a symbol of everything that is right. It means your child is developing, you have created joy.  We have no doubts about the brilliance of that one small smile. We aren’t judging the smile on how radiant it is, we are just grateful that the smile existed.

As progress marches onward and with every new development, we become complacent. We take for granted all the positives in things that we already have. The newer model or updated dream become our focus. And we are so busy with everyday life that we forget to see the blessing that we are living. When we are running errands and going to work we fall into the dual traps of monotony and familiarity.

Yet there is no such thing as an unimportant day. We are blessed with free-will and can choose our own fate. Simply by deciding to focus on our blessings and look for the positives within the mundane, we can build a life of meaning. There are a number of Jewish sources all teaching us to say 100 brachot (blessings) a day. One hundred can seem daunting when we ask ourselves what we are grateful for. But when we learn to find appreciation in the minutiae of our daily lives suddenly we practice thankfulness.

Thankfulness is the road to happiness.

We can use our teachings of Tikkun Olam as another guide in the understanding of the blessings we have. As we give to others and work together for a better world, in the aim of helping those who are not as fortunate as ourselves, we can learn to use  comparison as a tool for thankfulness and not for regret.

So, Modeh Ani, we are grateful that we awoke because so many people don’t get the chance to start a fresh day. Theodore Roosevelt said it clearly “Comparison is the thief of joy” but I would add to that quote one from Pirkeit Avot “Who is happy? He who is content with his lot”.

There is a huge movement that is catching the imagination of people everywhere. The concept of minimalism, peeling away at the excess, until we are left with the items we truly value. The understanding that in this age of materialism, the bombardment of advertising is not leading us to the happiness we are searching for. In order to live a worthwhile life, we are learning to be happy with what we have.

About the Author
Abi Taylor-Abt is an outstanding Jewish Educator and Curriculum Developer who has worked in the field of Jewish Primary and Secondary Educational Curriculum Development for over twenty years. She is the author of Lessons in Jewish Learning - a grab and go curriculum for communities and Jewish schools. Originally from London, Abi spent time living in Israel, South Africa, England and the United States. After working in Boise, Idaho, Abi spent 5 years in Israel for the second time whilst her children served in the army. She is currently Director of Education for Yachad a combined educational endeavour between the conservative congregation of Beth Shalom and the reform community of Temple Emanu-El in Michigan, USA. A 2018 recipient of the Klein/Grinspoon Award for Excellence in Jewish Education, Abi is also awaiting the video version of her recent ELI Talk Detroit Speaker Fellowship.