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November 22, 2002 - Image 33

Resource type:
The Detroit Jewish News, 2002-11-22

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Thankful For Thanksgiving


he concept of giving thanks
seems to be universal,
something that is expressed
— in one way or another
— in every religion and every cul-
The impulse to give thanks may
even be instinctive: Dogs don't learn
to wag their tails. Predatory animals
aren't taught to refrain from attack-
ing their benefactors.
In a mood of bitter humor, author
and humorist Mark Twain
commented that if you were
to find a wounded and
hungry dog on the street
and dress its wounds and
feed its hunger, that dog
would never bite you. And
that, he claimed, is the
main difference between
dogs and men.
Although the phenome-
non of human free will is
often perceived as intrinsi-
cally good, Twain's wry
observation emphasizes that
it is only as good as the choices we
make with it. We sometimes use our
free will to overrule our best and
purest instincts — including grati-


Most societies value the expression
of appreciation, and recognize its
ability to smooth the rough edges of
interpersonal relations. For this rea-
son, we make a point of teaching
our children to express thanks from
a very early age. We strive to instill
gratitude as a habit, even if at times
we know that the feeling behind the
gesture may be lacking. We sense,
intuitively, that a society that deval-
ues or denigrates the concept of
gratitude — that defines relation-

not modulate our gratitude
by his deep relationship
based on an accounting, on
with God.
some evaluation of profit and
The structure of giving
loss, nor does giving thanks
thanks on a regular basis,
necessarily mean that we are
even in hard times, encour-
ages us to focus on the posi-
The very first blessing we
tive side of life: It does not
say in the morning, our very
mean that we forget the
first act of the day, expresses
dark side, just that we keep
RABBI ADIN a true perspective, giving
thanks that Vve are alive ...
STET N SALTZ the positive side its due.
even if we are ill. We make a
blessing over the gift of sight
Sorrow and anxiety should
... even if our vision is dim.
not extinguish our ability to
And we give thanks
say "thank you" for our
for having clothes to
blessings, even when they
put on ... even if
are obscured by pain.
they are threadbare.
Harder times can shake us
These obligatory blessings
from complacency and may enhance in
guard us against taking our
us the ability to perceive the good as a
most basic gifts for granted. gift to be appreciated and acknowl-
It feels easier and more
edged — in good times and in bad.
natural to give thanks when
In the end, feeling and expressing
everything seems to be
gratitude is good for us. The
going well, when we have
Almighty does not "need" our
peace and security, health
thanksgiving. It is we who benefit
and bounty. But when we
from feeling and expressing it. Our
are in a situation of war
Jewish liturgy contains a seldom-
and fear, of sickness and
noticed prayer, hidden within a
poverty, when our inclination is to
prayer, which acknowledges this.
cry and curse, it is much more diffi-
The phrase appears at a high point
cult to give thanks — but it is still
in the service, yet it is said to one-
possible and necessary.
self: "We thank You for inspiring us
When he was poor and starving,
to thank You." This goes well
the famous Reb Zushya is said to
beyond being thankful for our objec-
have thanked God for giving him
tive gifts. It recognizes that even our
such a good appetite! It is no coinci-
ability to know that we should be
dence that Reb Zushya's profound
grateful is a gift from God and wor-
capacity for gratitude was matched
thy of thanks.

The structure of giving
thanks on a regular basis,
even in hard times, encourages
us to focus on the positive
side of life.

Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz is an author,

historian and social critic who translated
the Talmud into five modern languages.
E-mail: steinsaltz@milita.co.il

ships by functionality alone — can-
not, and probably ought not, thrive.
The same is true of our relation-
ship with God. Giving thanks in a
religious, context is an extension of
the basic impulse to be grateful in an
interpersonal context. In Judaism,
we offer thanks to the Almighty for
each gift, even as we ask (or remon-
strate) about what we lack. We do

No Reason To Escalate Hostilities

Ramat Gan, Israel
tom the beginning of this
war more than two years
ago, the central strategy of
the Palestinian leadership,
and Yasser Arafat in particular, has
been to use terror in an effort to
provoke Israel into responses that
would lead to the deployment of an
international force.
However, Israeli leaders, and Prime
Minister Ariel Sharon in particular,
have carefully avoided this trap,
treading cautiously despite the bru-
tality of the attacks.


Gerald M. Steinberg, a professor, is

director of the Program on Conflict
Management and Negotiation in the
political studies department at Bar-Ilan
University in Israel. E-mail:

Over the past 18 months, the
Israel Defense Forces' responses have
been based on measured escalation,
steadily eroding the Palestinian abili-
ty to launch attacks and destroying
the caches of arms and explosives
that were acquired under the cover
provided through the Oslo political
Following the wave of suicide
bombings in March, including the
Pesach-night massacre in Netanya's
Park Hotel, the government and mil-
itary launched an assault to uproot
the terror networks in Jenin and
other Palestinian strongholds. This
marked a fundamental change in the
direction of events, and since then,
the Palestinian side has been losing
The ambush and murder of 12
security personnel in Hebron the

night of Nov. 15 (apparently,
desperate effort to avoid
the assault was initially
defeat, was not accidental;
designed to be a mass attack
the Palestinian leadership is
against civilians in Kiryat
very aware of the special
Arba) is unlikely to alter this
sensitivity of this city.
According to tradition and
Despite the pain from the
the biblical account, the
resulting loss of so many
double Machpelah Cave
accomplished individuals,
contains the graves of the
GERALD M. founders of the Jewish peo-
most of whom were killed
while trying to rescue the first STEINBERG ple.
group of casualties, this attack
It is the most ancient of
does not alter the overall
sacred Jewish sites. Hebron
trend toward the defeat of the
was also King David's capital
terrorist groups (Fatah,
prior to the triumphant
Hamas, Islamic Jihad, etc.)
entry into Jerusalem, further
and the destruction of the
sanctifying the city in Jewish tradi-
Palestinian Authority, which is
tion. In 1929, the massacre of the
responsible for launching this cam-
Jewish community in Hebron (also
paign of terror.
on Shabbat) marked the first and
The choice of Hebron for launch-
archetypal confrontation in the mod-
ing this deadly assault, perhaps in a
STEINBERG on page 34

0 AV




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