This week of Thanksgiving in the United States happens to be the week of the Torah portion Vayeitzei, in which Jacob marries two sisters, Leah and Rachel, and all three of them eventually settle for less than they wanted. Only Leah thanks God for what she already has. See my 2015 post, Vayeitzei: Satisfaction.
As for me, I am grateful that I am still working every day on my book about moral psychology in Genesis. Right now I am rewriting a Torah monologue, or dialogue, between Sarah and Hagar, the rival mothers of Abraham’s sons. In the Torah portion Vayeira, Sarah makes Abraham drive Hagar and her son out of the camp.
Two generations later, Leah and Rachel, rival mothers of Jacob’s sons, both travel to Canaan with him, and they achieve a grudging peace. The Torah illustrates that improvement is possible over time. And a dash of gratitude can only help.
Today we are right to work against racism in the United States; and we can also be grateful that civil rights increased during the 1960’s. We are right to work against the air pollution that is already changing the world’s climate; and we can also be grateful that so many heads of state, including America’s incoming president, finally recognize the problem. We are right to accept further isolation to reduce the spread of Covid-19; and we can also be grateful for the scientists who recommend best practices and develop new vaccines.
We would all rather just get what we want. But in the meantime, let’s give thanks for what we have.