How to give thanks


When the twin brothers Jacob and Esau meet in this week’s Torah reading, after many years apart, they each attempt to give the other gifts, whether to show their regard for each other or to appease any hurts that the other may have suffered.  Remember that these two brothers schemed against each other decades before in a struggle over which of them would receive the greatest inheritance from their father, so material possessions hold a central place in their fraught relationship.  When the gifts are offered, however, the responses that the brothers give each other are striking (Genesis 33:9-11).  “I have enough, my brother; let what you have remain yours,” says Esau.  “God has favored me, and I have plenty,” says Jacob.  After a lifetime of competing with each other, the brothers both come to the realization that what they have is enough, no matter how it compares to what the other has.  This is the essence of the sense of gratitude that Jewish tradition encourages us to cultivate not only at Thanksgiving but every day of the year.  May we all come to realize that what we have is enough, and may we reorient ourselves to focus on what we can give each other, rather than what we can receive.