We kindle these lights [to commemorate] the saving acts, miracles and wonders which You have performed for our forefathers, in those days at this time…”

Behold, a meditation on this holy eve of the festival of lights, straight from Israel. Once again, we’re diving back into the concept of gratitude (because everything always comes back to gratitude).

We think we know what we want. We think we KNOW how life is meant to be. We think we know how to express gratitude…Gratitude is easy when things go *our way.*

Think back to a time where you expressed gratitude with ease. Was it because your expectations were met? Probably.

When things don’t go our way, gratitude is an uphill battle in the rain. It’s difficult to be thankful when our desires don’t match the outcome.

The reality is that the trajectory of life and it’s endless unfoldings don’t usually manifest the way we expect. It’s difficult to say ‘thank you’ for things you don’t want in the first place, even if they lead you towards the right path.

No matter how rough the road to gratitude is, I think it’s the only clear road to true happiness.

Five years ago, I arrived in Israel on a mission: to pray my heart out. My trip coincided with Lag B’omer. Naturally, I found myself in Meiron at the grave site of Rabi Shimon Bar Yochai with hundreds of thousands of other Jews with a prayer in my heart and praise on my lips.

I was sure that path towards answered prayers would be a straight shot.

It wasn’t.

What followed was a long, difficult journey towards growth. It was the kind of growth that shaped me as a friend, a mentor, a writer, a soul. Growth spurts are painful, especially when you don’t anticipate their arrival. This growth spurt-while now appreciated-was torture at the time. I didn’t get what I wanted right away. It took years of transformation and change to arrive here. And there’s still so much work to be done.

There is always work to be done, thank G-d.

It’s simple to praise when the going is smooth, but life is usually anything but smooth. It’s not our world. It’s HaShem’s world. He knows what we need.

Gratitude takes on a different form when you *don’t* get what you want. It permeates. It transforms.

Tonight, we embark on an eight night journey through the Festival of Lights. Traditionally, lights are kindled with oil and wicks. Olive oil is created by crushing olives, transforming them from their original state, and elevating them fora new use.

What are we, if not olives waiting to express our highest potentials in our purest forms? The transformation is crushing (excuse the pun), but the outcome is magnificent- if we allow it to be, if we recognize it as such.

Today, my husband and I visited the grave site of Rabi Shimon Bar Yochai. It was a visit of gratitude five years in the making. I went with the intention to express gratitude for everything, the crushing transformation and the enlightened aftermath. HaShem knows what we need, guys. Sometimes, we get crushed (who am I kidding, sometimes life feels like one big olive press bearing down on my soul). It’s up to us to turn the transformation into a higher form of power.

Gratitude is the clearest path to pure happiness. It isn’t simple, but what is?

I hope that the twinkling Chanukah candles inspire each of us to dig deep into gratitude, and into our highest potentials.


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