Rabbi Ron Symons on November 23, 2015
An adult study partner of mine recently turned me onto a new author, Anne Lamott. She suggested that I read Anne’s Help, Thanks, Wow (2012), a beautiful exploration of the essence of prayer. I was hooked, and read 2 or 3 more of Anne Lamott’s books making my way through her Christian references to find the essence of humanity within the books and each other. Anne commented in an interview about the book,
“Thanks is the prayer of relief that help was on the way. … It can be [the] pettiest, dumbest thing, but it could also be that you get the phone call that the diagnosis was much, much, much better than you had been fearing. … The full prayer, and its entirety, is: Thank you thank you thank you thank you thank you. But for reasons of brevity, I just refer to it as Thanks.
“It’s amazement and relief that you caught a break; that your family caught a break; that you didn’t have any reason to believe that things were really going to be OK, and then they were and you just can’t help but say thank you.”
So basic – to essential – so deep.
Jacob ran away from his brother Esau some 20 years ago this week in the Torah. Afraid for his life, Jacob most likely feared returning home knowing that Esau was likely to kill him for stealing the blessing. Maybe that’s why he didn’t sleep well the night before the reunion, wrestling with an unknown assailant. But then, when the big moment came, Jacob said to Esau,
No, I pray you; if you would do me this favor, accept from me this gift; for to see your face is like seeing the face of God, and you have received me favorably. Please accept my present which has been brought to you, for God has favored me and I have plenty.
Maybe we can learn from Jacob and Anne: include thanks in the reunions to come this week. I will give thanks to family for us being together for all the small things we love about each other.
I will also turn my thanks to our country. It was just about a month ago when I looked to Lady Liberty across the harbor in NYC.
The New Colossus
BY EMMA LAZARUS
Not like the brazen giant of Greek fame,
With conquering limbs astride from land to land;
Here at our sea-washed, sunset gates shall stand
A mighty woman with a torch, whose flame
Is the imprisoned lightning, and her name
Mother of Exiles. From her beacon-hand
Glows world-wide welcome; her mild eyes command
The air-bridged harbor that twin cities frame.
“Keep, ancient lands, your storied pomp!” cries she
With silent lips. “Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”
So, no matter your politics or opinions about how wide our gates might be open, I invite you to offer thanks by visiting http://nextbookpress.com/new-colossus/ for a unique interactive experience with “The New Colossus”, the words of the daughter of Sephardic Jewish refugees. Gather on the couch with family and friends in front of an open laptop and give thanks to each other as proud Americans.
Jacob our father, the refugee of generations past, would approve.
(After going to the website, please tell me your impressions. Thanks!)