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Thanksgiving for Privilege

11/23/2023 02:20:24 PM

Nov23

Rabbi Scott Hausman-Weiss

I don’t know where he first heard it or learned it or maybe he made it up himself, but my dad’s favorite toast at most any occasion is this: “May you live as long as you want and never want as long as you live.” At some point along the way, my sister Sara (Cantor Sara) painted a beautiful sign with these words and now it adorns my parents' kitchen. 

A sign on the wall

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It’s really nice to be in LA with our family. And what a ridiculous privilege it is as well.  

Privilege? Yes. I know it’s a bit of a trigger word of late. And too often it has necessarily become an accusation that “Privilege” is indeed something one has received undeservedly. That a person’s station in life, their power, their influence is necessarily the result of endemic unfairness in the world.  And while I do not deny the truth of this assessment in significant parts of our society, I do often think that due to modern day pressures often exacerbated by social media, our sense of what we “deserve” or what makes one “privileged” and one “not privileged” is often skewed.  

What if we tried this on for size: Chesed. Chesed is the Hebrew word for “Kindness,” but biblically it denotes a certain kind of kindness: Divine Kindness.  What makes Chesed divine?  According to its use in the Torah, it’s that there is nothing about it that any of us deserve.  That the fact of being born, waking up to each new day, breath, the ability to eat and digest, get sick and heal, and even the act of promising and fulfilling the promise to a loved one of “See you tonight,” are “cheseds” that God bestows upon us in return for nothing we ever could or will ever do in the future.  

So, in the wake and tumult and especially horror and fear of the days in which we live, I pray this Thanksgiving that we all may have the privilege of sitting under the “vine and fig tree” of our mishpuchah (family and more) in peace, with our lives abounding with love and gratitude (so much of which we could never really have done anything to “deserve”).

Thank you for being CSK and for the chesed-kindness you have bestowed upon me and mine – more than I could ever have earned.  I am grateful and inspired and moved by your faith in us. For all that you do and have done, for all that you share in and have shared, for all that you love and been loved for – thank you.  You are Shma Koleinu and I am so terribly lucky to be your rabbi.

Rabbi Scott

Mon, February 26 2024 17 Adar I 5784