One morning, I woke up and couldn’t breathe.
In the moments that followed I silently begged G-d to help me, to save me, to return to me the gift I had taken for granted. Those were the most heartfelt prayers I had ever uttered, and when finally I could smell and taste the air again, I cried out to G-d in thanks.
I will never forget this episode as long as I live.
The feeling of choking and spluttering and gasping for air, as my lungs terrifyingly closed up, was not one which will leave me in a hurry. When I began to breathe again, after what felt like hours of asphyxation, I felt sicker than I ever had done before in my life.
But I was alive.
As I recovered I said the morning prayers. Thanking G-d for my soul and body felt especially heartfelt after what had happened to me that morning, following a bout of sickness. I’ve not felt anything like it since, but it taught me a powerful- if terrifying- lesson.
Never take anything for granted.
The Jewish prayers are unique. Our tefillos are unlike those of any other faith. As a baal teshuvah- returnee to Judaism- I’ve been curious about many religions, and have read and explored their liturgies, hymns and prayer offerings. Within many of them, the central theme of thankfulness is present, but I’ve never seen it explored the way it is in Judaism.
In Judaism, thankfulness is before us every moment of our lives. We thank G-d when we wake up and go to sleep; before and after food; when we pray; when we wear new clothing, and even when we go to the bathroom. Life is one long expression of thanks to our Creator, through our words and through our deeds. This unique, constant thankfulness resonates with us all. When you’ve lost something or someone, you are engulfed with greif but aware of what you had. You realise, at last, how precious a gift G-d had given you.
But in Judaism, we don’t wait for loss to say thank you. We say it every day, for reasons not immediately obvious. Because often, these reasons are the most valid of all.