Giving Thanks

Giving Thanks

A few days ago, an older woman knocked on my door and asked if she could see my home. She explained, a bit embarrassed, that close to 70 years ago she had lived in my living room with her parents and five siblings.

The woman, who introduced herself as Levana, immediately struck me as someone from a very different tax bracket than the typical Israelis I meet in Jerusalem. She confirmed my impressions when she explained that she was visiting for the day from one of Israel’s wealthiest communities.

As Levana entered my home, she first glanced towards the stairs which were constructed when our house was built up ten years ago from being a one-room apartment into a four-room home. I offered to show her the new upstairs, but she didn’t hear me.

She had already sighted our living room, and she was transfixed. “It is exactly the same as I remember!” she squealed as she moved inside. Her face lit up and before my eyes, she was transformed from the cosmopolitan woman who strode through my door into the little girl she had been when she lived in this room.

She pointed in one corner and said, “This is where my parents slept!” and then pointing to the other corner said, “And this is where I slept with my five siblings!”

When I asked her how it was possible that so many people had lived together in one room, she flashed me an ironic smile brimming with nostalgia. “Don’t ask!”

Levana circled around my living room. “My brothers and sisters and I would chase each other around this room for hours. I still remember the Shabbat candles my mother lit over there, and the family meal we would eat when my father came home from synagogue over there. And the windows! These are the windows where I would sit and watch the snow falling in the winter.”

“Over there,” she pointed to our entrance hall, “my mother had her kitchen. It was no more than a closet with a small gas stove, but I can still remember coming home from school and smelling her cooking from the front steps. If only I could cook like she did!”

It is difficult to imagine how Levana’s family coped under such crowded conditions. I feel crowded in our home which is at least three times as large as the one where Levana spent her childhood.

On top of this, the years that Levana lived with her family in my living room were times of food rationing, wars, curfews, and hand-to-mouth survival.

After Levana left, I thought about her a great deal, and about my own daughter knocking on the front door of this house in 70 years. What would she say about the years she will spend in these crayon-marked walls?

What is revolutionary about Judaism is that it teaches us to be thankful for the routine blessings in our life as well.

It struck me that Levana’s central memories were not of the Kodak moments of her young life. Her fondest memories were of everyday family routine — playing tag in the living room with her brothers and sisters, her mother cooking in the kitchen, eating a Shabbat meal. Her sweetest memories were of her family simply being together. Really together.

It is human nature to be grateful for things that are new.

We are thankful for the new baby that we have anxiously waited for. We are thankful for the new job we’ve been searching for half a year. We are thankful for winning $20,000 in the lottery. We are thankful for recovering from an illness.

What is revolutionary about Judaism is that it teaches us to be thankful for the routine blessings in our life as well.

We open our eyes in the morning and the first thing we do is thank God that we are still alive.

We go to the bathroom, and afterwards we say a blessing thanking God that our body is still functioning as it should be.

We sit down to eat a bowl of cornflakes, and before we take a bite we say a blessing thanking God that we still have food.

We say our morning prayers and thank God for the daily gift of being a Jew.

In this season of thanksgiving, take a few minutes to thank God for the blessings in your life that may never make it into your photo album.

For the games of tag in your living room, for family meals in the glow of the Shabbat candles, for the warm, cozy feeling of home when you look out of your window at the cold darkness.

Take a few moments this week to be grateful for the everyday gifts of being together. Really together.

Reprinted from


  1. I’ve read this before…


  2. It says “Reprinted from”

  3. Did you write this on Aish? I’m confused.

  4. yes, I wrote this for a few years ago…

  5. Bracha Goetz

    It’s so wonderful!

  6. amazing how pple lived so many years ago. we really must appreciate all the goodness we have.

  7. love this article.

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