I’d like to share a game with you that could change your life. I’ve never publicly written about this, but have been playing it for months now and can honestly say that when done properly, it can be transformative.
I call it the “Thank You Hashem” game.
Its origins are pretty innocent and unassuming. One day, I traveled to Washington, D.C., to visit a good friend, Daniel Epstein, rabbi of the George Washington University Hillel. We bought a few bags of potato chips, went for a walk and started spontaneously thanking Hashem.
One of us blurted out, “Thank you Hashem for these awesome chips!” Then, the other called out, “Thank you Hashem for this beautiful weather!” And we kept going back and forth — responsively — thanking G-d for whatever came to mind. The game came to an end as we finished up all of our potato chips. But it can, and often does, go much longer.
There is a great need for a game like this today. We take in so much negative messaging throughout our day. This is a fun way to inject positive energy into our lives. And it provides a fresh perspective that brings attention to the many blessings all around us.
For example, try thanking Hashem for your body. You can offer thanks for any of your body parts: each toe, your heart, hair, hair follicles, breath or the lungs that allow you to breathe. And it can (and should) go on. It’s all about recognizing the simple things we often overlook.
All of us enjoy blessings. If you’re reading this right now, you are alive and breathing. That’s a blessing in itself!
Over time, we have developed some guidelines to the game:
❙ One begins each gratitude point with the words, “Thank you Hashem for _____.” One can also choose to insert another name for G-d or just offer a general thank-you.
❙ The thank-yous do not need to be
related. You can thank Hashem for sneakers, followed by the other player thanking Hashem for deep spiritual experiences. It’s really whatever comes to mind in the moment! You can also choose to zone in on one topic. One day, we thanked Hashem for ice cream, sprinkles, cones and different ice cream flavors (yes, we like to eat!). After a while, one finds oneself recognizing blessings they never knew they had.
❙ One can play with another person, by oneself or with a group. A few have shared how the game brought much joy to their families as they played it together at their Shabbos tables. Teachers can also use this in their classrooms. And one can just play it alone during a long car ride.
❙ The thank-yous are responsive. In a group, this means that each person has a turn to thank Hashem and then waits for their next turn. You can also turn it into a speed match, challenging each person to quickly offer an answer.
❙ You can play wherever you are. We have played at parks, in parking lots eating (vegan) burgers (yes, more food …), and while beatboxing on the street.
❙ The game goes on until either you run out of energy or things to be thankful for. There is a competitive component to the game as each side scrambles to find the next thing for which to be thankful and keep the game going.
The holiday of Chanukah is just around the corner. On each night of this holiday we kindle an additional candle. This custom is based on Hillel’s approach (BTalmud Shabbat 21b) that we go up in holiness and add more light each time. This is the basic idea of the “Thank You Hashem” game. Each new thank you adds light and positivity to our lives.
If this light is something you are looking for and are up for trying out the game, I’d love to hear how it went for you. Please feel free to forward your experiences to: firstname.lastname@example.org.
In the meanwhile, wishing you a wonderful Chanukah and many days filled with light, joy, and thankfulness to Hashem.
Rabbi Dr. Eli Yoggev serves Pikesville’s Beth Tfiloh Congregation.
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