In Judaism, the most common blessing of thanksgiving is known as the Shehechiyanu. We recite this 2,000 year old blessing at the start of Holy Days, upon eating a new fruit or donning a new a garment, dwelling in a new home — all moments of pure gratitude. In shorthand we refer to this blessing as birkat hazman — the blessing of time.
Shehechiyanu consists of three acknowledgements, praising God for: 1) giving us life; 2) sustaining us; 3) and for causing us to reach this moment.
We can easily break these down into the way we navigate time. “Causing us to reach this moment” represents the here and now, the present. “Giving us life” leads us to reflect on yesterday and the past. And “sustaining us” is tomorrow and the future. We pause and offer gratitude for every chapter of our life, all at once — yesterday, today, and tomorrow.
And that is really the message we need to assimilate right now. So many supporters of President-elect Joe Biden want to erase the memory of President Donald Trump. But we have to accept and acknowledge the path we took to get here, what now looks like and the mountain left to climb. And we give thanks to the Divine for granting us the clarity of understanding to discern this moment from the next and the previous.
We are not in a better place than we were four years ago — far from it. But we can recognize the potent seeds of progress. How many more people are now registered to vote? How many more people are engaged in advocacy, in the fight for social justice and civil rights? How many more people are awake and paying attention? How many are standing up against oppression and suppression? And how do we ensure progress?
There is one nuance about the shehechiyanu blessing that is not commonly known. We only recite it to give thanks for moments that we hope (and pray) and believe will be repeated — like those beginnings of holy days, like eating a new fruit, like giving birth to a child.
Now is the time for us to recite Shehechiyanu, for the future we have struggled to manifest is upon us — but there is still much progress to make and work to repeat.
Now is the time for us to offer thanks, and not just because Thanksgiving is around the corner.
Now is the time to offer thanks because we have arrived, we are alive, and because we need every ounce of strength to keep on fighting.