Gratitude in Our Difficult Times

Posted on April 1, 2020

By Hazzan Barbara Barnett

This week’s Torah portion, Tzav includes the rules and regulations for making several sorts of offerings. Although we sometimes translate these “korbanot” as “sacrifices,” the word korban is really about drawing closer to G-d, rather than giving something up as the word “sacrifice” implies.

Among these is the zevach shelamim (offering of well-being), which might be offered in an act of thanksgiving (zevach todah) or as a free-will donation. These days, it may be difficult to find a reason (or the time) to express gratitude. Looking ahead to a Passover without being surrounded by family and friends, grappling with work while juggling children and everyone’s new reality of work and school “at home,” worry about COVID-19 as case numbers explode while trying not to worry our children. Who has the time for gratitude, much less drawing closer to G-d?

But then I think about the doctors, first responders, the people who direct traffic at the drive-through COVID-19 test center, heroes imbued with courage, compassion, kindness, each of whom act B’tzelem Elokim (in G-d’s image). The researchers, inspired with the spark of genius, the gift of curiosity, the miracle of potential discovery of a better test, an effective treatment, a vaccine to protect. The miracle of technology that allows us to order Pesach supplies online, to connect with each other at synagogue via Zoom for daily services, for programs, for study, for Shabbat and Pesach. And for blessing of opportunity to “be” with family far and wide via virtual seder.

I think about the bracha (blessing) in the Amidah that begins with “Modim anachnu Lach” (we than You, Adonai) for “…Your miracles that are with us every day and for Your wondrous deeds and favors at all times: evening, morning and noon.” This morning as I read the Amidah during Shacharit, I paused a moment at “Modim anachnu Lach” adding my own thoughts of gratitude during this stressful time, drawing me closer to G-d, praying for the well-being of those who take care of us all—and for the well-being of our community.