November 15, 2023
“Let’s start by sharing a small win.”
“Before we end today, let’s each share something positive in our lives.”
In two separate gatherings I was part of last week, these prompts were offered. The meeting leaders reasoned that with all the uncertainty and darkness surrounding us, it is important not to lose sight of goodness, accomplishments, sweet moments.
In the first meeting, we each shared a small win from our day, before we jumped into the heavier content before us. It was remarkable how focusing in on a tiny success (it really did have to be small and discrete) changed our moods and perspectives.
In the second gathering, which was a group of Jewish clergy sharing the challenges facing the Jewish community right now, we decided to share something positive from our lives before we closed the Zoom meeting. We each went around and shared. By the time we hit the “end meeting” button, my mood had been thoroughly transformed. Where we had just minutes earlier shared heavy sighs, heavy hearts, and heavy concerns, we were smiling and laughing, sharing joy.
I shared that I had led our Menchkins playgroup earlier that morning–a monthly gathering for our littlest members. I talked about our theme for November–Modeh Ani (giving thanks). I recounted that we all pretended to be asleep and then wake up, to a new day–so that we could sing the Modeh Ani prayer. For as Jews, that is how we start the day, by giving thanks. Before we even get out of bed and start being and acting in the world, we offer a moment of prayerful awareness where we say something along the lines of:
Wow! Thank you G-d for giving me another day.
Thank you for entrusting me to bring my whole self to this new day.
I was thankful to have been reminded of this beautiful time I had spent with our Menchkins (babies, toddler, preschoolers) and their families. I was thankful to be reminded that even in the midst of intensely heavy experiences, we can shift our focus, even if only momentarily. And we can choose to tune in more and more of those moments, for we all have goodness in our lives. We can all locate the small wins.
Judaism is actually a practice of precisely that. Our tradition teaches that we are obligated to recite at least 100 blessings per day. Essentially we are to carve out many many moments of being present for the small wins and positive moments.
Now is the time to really double down on what Judaism has to offer us. Now more than ever we can find comfort in prayer and community. Now more than ever we must attune to the positive, when it is so easy to lose that thread.