To Be Blessed With Everything : A Thanksgiving Sermon

This week’s parasha opens with the death of Sarah and Abraham’s purchase of the cave of Machpelah in which she will be buried.  After burying and mourning his wife, scriptures tells us G-d blessed Abraham “bah-kol”.  This is conventionally translated as “G-d blessed Abraham with everything”.  But what is “everything”?  Is it “everything that money could buy”?    Is it “everything Abraham ever wanted”?   

As we know, each letter in the Hebrew alphabet has a numerical value. Rashi, notes that the Hebrew letters of the word “bakol” add up to “52”, which is the same as the numerical value of the letters in “ben” — Hebrew for “son”.  This tells us, Rashi  says, that Abraham was blessed with everything because he had a son, Isaac.  On the other hand, Rabbi Yehuda says that this verse means that Abraham also had a daughter, and her NAME was “Bakol”!  

Not surprisingly there is yet another interpretation. That is, that G-d possesses a divine trait called “KOL”, and that God blessed Abraham with this divine trait.

But what is this divine trait?
I recently read an essay by American Jewish writer Abigail Pogroben  that gave me an insight into what this special virtue may have been. The essay is called “Gratitude Works”. Abigail Pogroben writes that she began to keep a “Gratitude Journal”.   According to a study by researchers from the University of Minnesota and the University of Florida, “having participants write down a list of positive  acts  at the close of a day — and why these acts  made them happy — lowered their self-reported stress levels and gave them a greater sense of calm at night.” According to others, keeping a gratitude journal forces us to pay attention to the good things in life we might otherwise take for granted. In this way, we start to become more aware of the everyday sources of satisfaction, enjoyment and pleasure in our lives, leading to a greater sense of  emotional well-being.   

Abigail Pogroben was skeptical at first. “I know that keeping a gratitude journal conjures up a lemming-like embrace of the latest self-help fad or the pop psychology that is now in fashion,” she writes. Despite her misgivings she gave it a try. And as soon as she started writing in her Gratitude Journal, something began to change. She writes “I found myself noticing moments when I felt good and thinking: ‘This will go on today’s page.’ But then there would be another moment, and I would find myself saying; ‘No, this is a better item to record.’ And by the time I opened my book at bedtime, I had more gems to record than I had space for, and soon I had to write in shorthand to squeeze it all in. But the greater revelation wasn’t that there were more happy moments to record than I expected. It was that there was at least one every single day!   

“Before I started the journal, if someone had asked me whether I experienced at least one moment of joy every single day, I would have answered: ‘no’. And I would have been wrong. “There were many such moments every day – page after page after page of them.  Some were small, hardly worth mentioning, and some were big – really big. Even when I had a bad day, there was always a good hour or a good minute shining through…..”   

Having read this, I wondered whether this could be the divine trait that G-d blessed Abraham with at the end of his days –to be blessed with everything — the ability to be grateful for everything – big and small – that happened to him throughout the day. To see the blessing in everything and in every moment.    

As we gather with our families and friends this Thanksgiving Day, I hope we will all take time to look around us to acknowledge the blessings in our lives. And may we turn every day into Thanksgiving Day.  Who knows — maybe we will discover that we too have been blessed by G-d “bakol“.

Shabbat Shalom