Contentment by Cantor Mary R. Thomas

Who is the rich one? He who is happy with his lot, as it says, “When you eat [from] the work of your hands, you will be happy, and it will be well with you” (Psalms 128:2). “You will be happy” in this world, and “it will be well with you” in the world to come.  – Pirkei Avot 4:1

I’m the type of person who is rarely satisfied with what is. I’m more of an, “if you can imagine it, you can make it reality” type of person. I’m a person who gets very antsy standing still and being “stuck” is the most uncomfortable place to be.

In fact, I’m the type of person to play silly social media games that might inspire me toward a future goal that I might not even have yet. For instance, last night, I encountered a social media “manifester” that flashed through all of the things you might be able to attain or create or will into being in 2017. To use this facebook fortune-finder, you had to take a screenshot of the words flashing by, then look at the picture and see what the game predicted for you in 2017. I watched friends play and post results like, “unicorn” or “achievement” or “recognition.” I took a screenshot, opened the photo and what did it predict for me in 2017? French fries. Seriously.

When you move quickly, as I sometimes do, it can be difficult to be mentally and emotionally present. When you live in a constant state of “if you build it, they will come,” it can be hard to see the magnificence of the already-erected scaffolding. For me, it takes great skill and care to be able to live both in the moment and in the future that I continue to want to create for myself, my family, my community, and the Jewish people. It might be the thing I work on the most: to perceive both where I am and where I’m heading at the same time.

But, Chanukah, Christmas (whether or not you have family with whom you celebrate, it’s most definitely a quiet day around town) and winter breaks are a time for putting down our hammers and nails, our building things, and sitting quietly by the fire with hot chocolate and warm slippers. The slowing down, if we allow ourselves to slow down, will permit a deeper sense of now-ness, of presence, to seep in through the crackles and cookies and coffees. I can feel it happening already. My little family is coming to a place of stillness for a little while and I could not be more grateful.

I hold fast to the Jewish tenet that we are partners with God in creation, continuing to build the world anew each and every day. For me, it’s Jewish to create and imagine and make new things. It’s one of the ways in which I try to act out a sense of holiness and purpose. But it’s also Jewish to find contentment in your lot – to accept, to love, and linger in what is and our good fortune. The time to plant and to cultivate will be back before we know it.

At this season when we bring light into the darkness, when we recognize that miracles can happen, when tiny flames stir our hearts’ deepest desires, may we feel a deep sense of presence and fill with gratitude overflowing. Chag Urim Sameaich – Wishing you Joyous Chanukah.

One thought on “Contentment by Cantor Mary R. Thomas

  1. Ellen Reich

    Thanks Mary, for this thoughtful essay. While trying to balance these “opposites” is tough, I believe sustaining two seemingly opposing notions is a life fully lived! From my standpoint I think you do this quite well!

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