Next week I am singing in an interfaith Thanksgiving service. The pastor of the host church has asked for members of the various faith communities to step forward in expressing Thanks Giving of an unusual kind: being thankful for their faith tradition itself. The assignment is to answer in just 2 or three sentences. The request was greeted at first with silence of the choir members. “That’s really hard to do, especially to explain to outsiders,” commented one singer. It reminds me of the challenge to Rabbi’s Hillel and Shamai: “if you can explain your tradition to me while standing on one foot, I will convert,” announced the seeker. Shammai sent the stranger away, annoyed, but Hillel accepted the challenge. “What is hateful to you do not do to another. The rest is commentary: go and study,” responded Rav Hillel. I decided to give this challenge a try, so, while standing on one foot, here is why I’m thankful:
I am so very grateful for this Jewish tradition, it has given me my life
It is a time machine: memories of delicious and melodic Holidays at Grandma’s bless my children’s lives as I teach them of their heritage
It’s treasury of wisdom gives me roots & grounds me, informing me how to give, and love, and see with eyes of radical amazement (in the words of Rav Heschel)
And In Becoming a part of its music I have found my voice and my heart’s wings.
(I will put my foot back down now)