Remember What Was Good?

Image: A bride and groom. (Photo by Linda Burnett)

Rabbi Nehuniah ben Haqanah used to recite a short Prayer when he entered the study hall and when he exited. They said to him, “What is the nature of this Prayer?” He said to them, “When I enter, I pray that I will cause no offense. And when I exit, I give thanks for my portion.” – Yerushalmi Berakhot 33a, Ch 4:2.

Chanukah Sameach!

We are almost at the end of 2016. Usually that means that the media is full of “The Year Just Past” and such – but I’ve noticed that a lot of folks don’t have much stomach for that this year.

Then a friend of mine, Maxine, left a remarkable message on Facebook. She asked, “What GOOD things happened to you in the past year?” And it brought me up short.

What I learned from Maxine’s post was that I had become focused on things I’m not happy about, and that the simple act of making a list of the things that had gone well or that were not bad changed my feelings dramatically. I feel much better, and better equipped to face the year ahead. It reminded me of Rabbi Nehuniah ben Haqanah’s wise practice of giving thanks for his portion (for the things making up his life) every day on exiting the hall of study.

A lot of good things happened to me in the past year. Just to name a few:

  1. Our younger son, Jim, got married. He married a wonderful young woman that we love very much. I feel like I’ve suddenly got a daughter, and their happiness is infectious. June 18 will always count as a good day for our family.
  2. And, as many of you have been following, my brother Albert survived a terrible accident. He is still fighting his way through rehab. He suffered a traumatic brain injury that has set him back in many ways, and from which recovery is slow and difficult. His story is not a feel-good “Hallmark Movie” but it is a story of skillful medical care, amazing nursing care, and above all, his courage, and the courage of his wife and children. He remains in my prayers.
  3. And a small thing: my online Introduction to the Jewish Experience class grew. We had our first class over 20 members, and our first class with a member from outside North America. We just finished the Fall term, and all of them are learning well. It’s not a big success (no one is donating big bucks to Lehrhaus to support my work, or giving me a big award!) – just the sort of little quiet success that still gives me great satisfaction.

OK, those are my three things. Now I am going to invite each of you to think back over the past year to find something good. It doesn’t have to be anything big, just something good, and I hope you will share it with the rest of us via the comments.

Most of all, I hope that it transforms your experience as the same exercise transformed mine.  I wish you a Chanukah of blessing and light!

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Rabbi Ruth Adar is a teaching rabbi in San Leandro, CA. She has many hats: rabbi, granny, and ham radio operator K6RAV. She blogs at and teaches at Jewish Gateways in Albany, CA.

10 thoughts on “Remember What Was Good?”

  1. Lovely post. I will be keeping your brother Albert and his family in my prayers. Despite some dark times we are facing, looking back over the year there is much I have to be personally grateful for and your post is a timely reminder. Chag Chanukah Sameach!

  2. Great point! Many good things happened to our family this year, and a lot of them were not measurable successes but just times when we had fun, just plain enjoyed ourselves with family and friends. We had one last night when our loved ones came round to our Erev Chanukah open house:-)

  3. Rather than have my year defined by the American election, I am focusing on my return to Judaism, which occurred this summer. After 50 years of struggling with my biracial identity, I am now a more confident Jew who goes to synagogue regularly.

    I also took a trip to the British Isles this summer and fell in love with Edinburgh, Scotland.

    Happy Hanukkah!

  4. One of the most consistent goods, Rabbi, is this blog. Your outreach of compassion and kindness into the world is something that I’ve clung to so often over the past year. This blog is a reminder that your good heart, your voice, is one amongst so many. And our voices joined together? A powerful chorus.

  5. three portions for which I am grateful: reaching 65 in good health; supportive family; reconnecting with old friends.

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