What I know about love so far in my life is this: it has something to do with feeling both desire and gratitude at once. That is, a desire to speak with, to see and to be close with another person: a spouse, an immediate family member, a grandparent, a nephew, a dear friend. It is desire that pushes me to reach out and give to another, to seek an affectionate response, to hope for connection and joy. Desire sometimes makes me crazy. Sometimes I am let down or disappointed when this desire is not reciprocal. Sometimes desire fades, leading to carelessness.

But gratitude offers a different perspective than desire. This is what allows love to extend beyond a feeling of ‘wanting’ to a feeling of calm and peaceful satisfaction. With gratitude, I am able to reflect on how I am giving to another, and I am drawn to appreciate how another is giving to me. Gratitude is often what enables desire to thrive positively, which enables us to keep giving.

In Vayikra Rabba 9:7, R. Pinchas, R. Levi and R. Johanan said in the name of Menahem of Gallia: “In the Time to Come, all sacrifices will be annulled, but that of thanksgiving (gratitude) will not be annulled.
And, all prayers will be annulled, but that of Thanksgiving will not be annulled.”

According to this midrash, gratitude will exist at the end of time, and beyond. Then, there won’t be any needs, but the mere recognition of peace and joy. This pithy and powerful text reminds its readers to focus on gratitude day-to-day, in our present lives, and not only be something to look forward to…This may be what drives our desires to reach out to continue connecting with each other and with God.

May we be blessed with the strength to have and express gratitude. And may we be blessed with the gifts of good health, much love and happiness.

Etta is a Jewish educator, ritual consultant, and performing artist in New York. She is completing MA degrees in Midrash and Jewish Education at JTS and is writing her thesis on Vayikra Rabba. Originally from Toronto, Etta received her BA in Theater from York University and trained with Canada’s Royal Conservatory of Music. She incorporates her love of Jewish texts and the study of drama in her teaching. Etta has taught Jewish studies – focusing on Bible/Midrash and liturgy – to students at Drisha, Solomon Schechter School of Manhattan and Mechon Hadar. Etta is also studying Clinical Pastoral Education under Rabbi Mychal Spinger and will be doing her second unit of chaplaincy this coming summer. She was married in December to another Wexner Graduate Fellowship alum, Rabbi Eitan Bendavid (Class 20). Etta can be reached at etta.abramson@gmail.com.