A problem I experience every Thanksgiving, as I ponder what to write to express my thankfulness on this day, is this. How does a finite being with a little pea-sized brain express his gratitude for the infinite and many-splendored wonders of the universe in which he has been placed, for the human-nourishing globe on which he has grown up, for the prosperous, kind, and generous land in which he has thrived, for the places he has lived in peace, for the roof over his head and the food on his table, and not last but rather at the top of the list, for the family and friends who have nurtured and sustained him and walked with him through thick and thin in this life.
And after mentioning those broad outlines of categories for which to be thankful, how does one “drill down” to all the things we take for granted, such as breath and life itself, for the ability to comprehend and communicate, for the atoms that make up the cells that make up the various parts of the marvelous bodies we inhabit, and for the spirit within us.
How does one give thanks for each and every thing on that never-ending list of things for which one is, or should be, thankful?
In a word, one does not. One cannot. Not for “each and every.” Yet, this year I will choose to express thanks for one basic, essential, and overarching gift—the gift of communication, which involves not only speech and all the associated methods of expressing thoughts and sharing ideas but also the very ability to receive information, process it, and craft a response.)
The scriptures tell us that God breathed into the Adam the breath of life and he “became a living being.” The Targum Onkelos (one of the earliest translations of the Torah from the Hebrew—in this case into Aramaic) says “became a speaking being.” Is it not that ability to communicate that sets us apart from so many other living things on the planet? Yes, there is some limited ability on the part of animals, and perhaps even, to a lesser extent, plants, but the created-in-the-image-of-God-like ability to comprehend, to give and receive thought, to bless (yes, and to curse), to choose (in speaking, we choose), and to express thanks, seems to be unique to the Adam, a term by the way, that is inclusive of both male and female humans.
So, this year I express my thanks for the ability to communicate with my fellow beings and with the Divine being who vouchsafed me that power. And having expressed that gratitude, I will use that ability to thank each and every one of you, my family and friends, for your love and compassion, and for continuing to be there for me and communicate with me, sometimes overlooking and forbearing my rants and raves with respect to things on which we disagree.
Thanks, too, for all those who have gone before and given us the nation we have been given and the potential to be “a light unto the nations” and a salutary presence in the world.