I Am Thankful

Yes, it is Thanksgiving Day, 2011, and I am writing about all of the many things about which I have to be thankful. However, I am writing this is not because it is Thanksgiving Day, but because as I have been studying mussar. Hashem has been dealing with me in the area of gratitude, and today I want to make sure I put into writing a list of things for which I am thankful as a record of Hashem’s blessing and faithfulness in my life.

First, and foremost, I am thankful that Hashem loves me infinitely and that he sent Yeshua in order to bring His message of love into my life. Thank you, Abba.

Second, I am thankful for my beloved wife, soul-mate, best friend and lover. I couldn’t have created a better ezer k’negdo than the one Hashem has provided for me. I am still madly in love with this woman after 17 years of marriage and almost 21 years of friendship. She is my blessing, my anchor, my confidant, my solstice. Thank you, Hashem, for giving her to me.

Next, I am thankful for my four wonderful children, Kaleb, Kai, Boaz and Einya. I am truly blessed with and by these packages of joy in my life. They each come with their unique personality, sense of humor, gifts and mission in life. They are full of zeal for life, and create a special sense of Hashem’s presence in this world. Their joy and innocence bring a bit of tikkun to this life. I pray that I do not taint them with my cynicism and that I am worthy to set them on the path to fulfill their calling in this life. I am also gratefully thankful that Hashem has allowed us to conceive again. We are looking forward to meeting another Huckey child toward the end of March or beginning of April.

I am thankful for the friends with which Hashem has surrounded me. I am very blessed to have a group of close friends who love Him sincerely, and are a constant source of encouragement and inspiration in my life. I can’t express how blessed I have been over these last few years because of them. They have loved and supported me and my family in some of our deepest times of need.

I am thankful for being able to work from home and be with my family nearly 24/7 all year round. Sometimes that can be a frustration point for a family, but not ours. It has only drawn us closer together. I see the fruits of this when I go to a meeting for an hour or two and return home to see my children running from the house to greet me with warm smiles and hugs. I don’t think very many fathers who are away from their homes for 8 to 10 hours a day get this kind of treatment.

I am thankful that I live in a time and an environment in which I have opportunities to serve Hashem in a capacity of which I can take advantage. Although I may not be taking full advantage of these opportunities, the recognition of this is the first step in pushing me towards them. Thank you, Hashem, for your sovereignty.

The last may sound arrogant, but I it’s actually an act of humility, which I have been learning about. I am thankful for the abilities Hashem has placed within me. I often get frustrated that I don’t have one particular thing that I have “mastered” (yes – that’s me – Jack of All Trades, Master of None). However, I am discovering that because of my wide range of abilities, I am able to accomplish many things by making use of these gifts which compliment one another in order to bring about the end result. Thank you, Hashem, for making me uniquely me.

Hakarat Hatov – Recognizing the Good

 

Word of Faith cartoon

Over the last few weeks I’ve been consistently delving into the ancient practice of mussar each morning. This has been a huge source of inspiration and discipline for me.  For those who are not familiar with mussar, in very simplistic terms it is a practice within Judaism that has been developed over the last thousand years to develop and hone ethical traits within a person, using the Bible as its fountainhead. It began to reach widespread popularity with the works of Rabbi Yisrael Salanter in the 19th century. The primary text I have been using thus far has been Everyday Holiness by Alan Morinis.

This morning, as I began the next chapter, which deals with Gratitude, I came across something that made me reflect back on a conversation I had recently with a friend of mine. The text reads as follows:

The Hebrew term for gratitude is hakarat ha’tov, which means, literally, “recognizing the good.” The good is already there. Practicing gratitude means being fully aware of the good that is already yours.

The last sentence in this quote is what got my attention, particularly the statement that we must be “fully aware of the good that is already yours.” In my recent conversation, my friend was sharing with me what he recently learned from his church. He said that he learned that everything we need has already been given to us, because of the work of Christ on the cross. Therefore, if we need healing, we just need to thank God for it and claim our healing, because we have actually already been healed by Jesus; we just need to claim it.

This type of teaching is typically called “Word of Faith,” and is prevalent among many charismatic churches. These two concepts sound like quite similar. They both seem to be centered on recognizing a reality that does not presently exist. However, if we look carefully at the differences between Hakarat ha’tov and Word of Faith, we will see that they are quite distinct. The first distinction is that  the former looks backward, while the latter looks forward. Also, the former focuses on the blessings (whether obvious or seemingly hidden) one has already received, while the latter focuses on the blessings one will be receiving. The former says, “I thank you, Lord, for the financial blessing you gave to me in my time of need.” The latter says, “I thank you, Lord, for the financial blessings you will give me in this time of need, because I already possess them in Christ.” Again, the former is thankful for the previous reality, while the latter is thankful for the future reality.

The difference between the two may not seem significant. However, the fruit of the two lines of philosophy should be fairly apparent. The one who practices hakarat ha’tov is instilled with a sense of gratefulness and humility that his past needs have been supplied, and is assured that whether or not his present needs seem to be met (according to his perception), he has something for which he can already be thankful. The one who practices Word of Faith, however, is prone to presumptuousness and insolence in that he feels that his needs are an entitlement. This tends to allow one to walk before the Lord without humility and expect him to satisfy our own desires, rather than being thankful for that with which He has already blessed us.

I’m not saying that my friend is arrogant. I am saying, however, that this type of theology typically lends itself toward this mentality and I have seen it far too many times. We must remember, that although Jesus gave us everything, we should still be content and gleeful to be dogs who eat the crumbs that fall from the Master’s table, rather than demanding our share of the loaf. Let us “Count our blessings, name them one by one. Count our many blessings, see what God has done” and live a life filled with thankfulness, rather than presumption. Let us be truly thankful in this season of the many things our Heavenly Father has done for us without any expectation of what blessings we may or may not receive in the future.