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A.J. Jacobs on Gratitude (November 2018)

NOTE: This was intended to be a pre-Thanksgiving message, but I missed the deadline.

I have encountered A.J. Jacobs a few times recently, and I want to share him with you. The first was on my favorite Jewish podcast, “Unorthodox,” and then more recently on CBS Sunday Morning. Jacobs is a writer--you may be familiar with his The Year of Living Biblically, in which he chronicles his year of attempting to live by all of the laws, i.e. mitzvot, in the Torah. His most recent book, hence his recent appearances in numerous media outlets, is about gratitude, and is entitled Thanks A Thousand.

Jacobs describes his efforts to express his gratitude to all of the people who provide him with one of his simple pleasures—his morning cup of coffee. A man after my own heart! Jacobs needed to thank not only the barista who served him his morning joe, but also the truck driver who delivers the beans, the company who assures that the bean storage facility is kept bug-free, the pavers of the road on which the truck driver drove, and the list goes on. The quest took months and took him all over the globe.

Jacobs, who is Jewish (in case you were wondering), is a self-proclaimed agnostic, and in his words, bordering on being an atheist. Yet I find his quest very spiritual. Jacobs speaks of the “radical interconnectedness” he embraced during this journey, which is a very mystical idea. He describes “the mindset of being aware of the thousands of people involved in every little part of our lives.” He encourages his friends to go on their own “trail of gratitude.”

Jacobs confesses that through this process he learned about the centrality of gratitude in Judaism, something he had previously been unaware of. Don’t get me started—it’s something so fundamental to Jewish tradition! As Rabbi Geoffrey Mitelman states in a pre-Thanksgiving piece several years ago in theHuffington Post entitled “To Be A Jew Is to Give Thanks—by Definition,” “On this Thanksgiving, then, may we have eyes that are open to the blessings that are always with us, and may we always remember just how much can happen from the simple power of giving thanks.” I couldn’t have said it any better myself.

Sorry I missed the deadline.

Fri, July 12 2024 6 Tammuz 5784