Hakarat hatov means “recognizing the good.” When you go to a bar or bat mitzvah, or any simcha for that matter, folks usually give hakarat hatov to God, thanking Him for all He has done by bringing the family to this happy occasion. This tribute of gratitude usually comes before the annoying “you are the greatest husband/wife in the whole world.” (Barf.) “My life would be nothing without you.” (Double barf.) “And this party would be in an empty room if it weren’t for you.” (Triple barf.) In any event, over a year or so ago, two specific and significant incidents happened in my life. Son #1 totaled the car, but walked away in one piece, thank God, thank God. (Perhaps some of you read that column. If not, that is OK.) And a few weeks after the accident, my mom fell, and, thank God, thank God, didn’t break anything. (I didn’t write about that one so you’re good if you didn’t read it and if you read it, well, you should get that checked out.)
I decided that I needed to show hakarat hatov to God, to show Him how much I appreciated the blessings that He had given me. So I sat down with son #1 to discuss my options. I wanted to take something on — something good — a mitzvah or something of that nature. Something to help me toward becoming a better person. As you can imagine, he had a whole list of things that I could do to show God my appreciation. Just a few, right off of the top of his head (they started coming out of his mouth, a tad too quickly if you ask me but, whatever) — start covering my hair, start wearing only skirts, stop using inappropriate language… Yes, son #1 was ready with many options. But knowing it would need to be something that I could actually follow, we settled on going to synagogue once a month for the blessing of the new month. So far, I have gone every month, in snow, sleet, hail — just like the postal service! I have gone in Woodmere, in White Plains —nothing has stopped me from going back on my word.
Looking back, I remember I used to go every month when I was pregnant; saying the words with sincere intent and focus. I would think about the little person who was growing and developing inside of me and hoping that with each month, everything that was supposed to be happening, would be happening. And for the past few months, I have been doing the same (without the whole pregnancy element since I am not currently with child. Or will ever be again. Just to be clear. Yes, it is just a little extra weight, no I am not having a child in my very late 40s). I also try not to make any eye contact with anyone so I don’t have any evil thoughts, which defeats the purpose of my going to synagogue in the first place, trying to be a better person. Yes, I have issues.
This past month was a little different. As some of you know, my dad has been in the hospital and rehab the past few weeks. What had started as a simple procedure ended up being a near disaster. It got me thinking about the words that you say in the blessing of the new month. Please don’t be alarmed, but I am about to quote from the siddur. “May it be your will that You inaugurate this month upon us for goodness and for blessing. May You give us long life, a life of peace, a life of goodness, a life of blessing … a life of physical health.” All of these things that we want for ourselves and for the people we love.
But what about when the month doesn’t turn out the way that we want it? There is sadness, there is sickness, there is death. And as I am reading the words, I see that the last two words, before it says, “now let us respond: Amen,” are, “For salvation and consolation.” Consolation. Nechama. Comfort. It seems that God is covering all of His bases. We all pray for it to be a good month. For everything to go our way. For miracles to happen. But in the event that it doesn’t, that it isn’t in the plan, we are offered comfort and consolation. I guess it is good to read the English, and it certainly is good to know that we are all being watched out for, even if it isn’t always what we want.
Wishing all of you blessings and comfort in this new month and all of those to follow.
Banji Ganchrow of Teaneck has not only learned where Emerson, New Jersey, is, but that it only takes 90 minutes to walk there.