As the new year approaches, with the recession still in force, I find myself giving thanks to God for all the things that cost nothing and are worth everything.
I thank Him for the love that has filled our home for so many years. Life is never easy. We’ve had our share of pain. But through it all we discovered the love that brings new life into the world, allowing us to share in the miracle of birth and the joy of seeing our children grow.
I thank Him for the blessing of grandchildren. I don’t know why it is I was so surprised by joy, but in their company my constant thought is that I didn’t know that life could be that good. I thank Him for the friends who stood by us in tough times, for the mentors who believed in me more than I believed in myself, and for the teachers who encouraged me to think and question, teaching me the difference between truth and mere intellectual fashion.
I thank him for those rare souls who lift us when we are laid low by the sheer envy and malice by which some people poison their lives and the lives of others. I thank Him for the people I meet every day who light up the world with simple gestures of humanity and decency. I thank Him for the fragments of light he has scattered in so many lives, in the kindness of strangers and the unexpected touch of souls across the boundaries that once divided people and made them fearful of one another.
I thank Him for the gift of being born a Jew, despite all the persecutions visited on our people, often in the name of the same God my ancestors worshipped and to whom they dedicated their lives. I thank Him for the transformation of the relationship between Jews and Christians that has happened in my lifetime, and for the gift of coming to know people from so many different faiths, each of which has given something utterly unique to humanity.
I thank Him for Beethoven’s late quartets and Shakespeare’s prose and Rembrandt’s portraits. Rabbi Abraham Kook, chief rabbi of what was then Palestine, once said that God took some of the light of the first day of creation and gave it to Rembrandt who put it into his paintings. I thank Him for the first cup of coffee in the morning and the iPod I’ve almost learnt how to use (another year or two should do it), for Morgan Freeman’s voice and Woody Allen’s humour, for 2B pencils and wide-lined notepads, for bookshops and a forgiving wife.
I thank Him for the atheists and agnostics who keep believers from believing the unbelievable, forcing us to prove our faith by the beauty and grace we bring into the world. I thank him for all the defeats and failures that make leadership so difficult, because the hard things are the only ones worth doing, and because all genuine achievement involves taking risks, making mistakes, and never giving up.
I thank Him for the gift of faith, which taught me to see the dazzling goodness and grace that surround us if only we open our eyes and minds. I thank Him for helping me to understand that faith is not certainty but the courage to live with uncertainty; not a destination but the journey itself. I thank Him for allowing me to thank Him, for without gratitude there is no happiness, only the fleeting distraction of passing pleasures that grow ever less consequential with the passing years.
(First published in The Times)