Take Care that You Do Not Forget

Trinitarian Congregational Church                                                   Thanksgiving Sunday

Anthony S. Kill                                                                                    November 19, 2017

Texts: Deuteronomy 8:11-18; Luke 17:11-19


Some years ago, I came across a story about Thanksgiving that I really like.

It’s a Jewish folktale titled Meshka the Kvetch.

Meshka was a ‘kvetch’ – she was a complainer.

She complained about absolutely everything!

She kvetched about her late husband — the house he built for them was too small.

If only he had built it bigger, she would be better off.

The rooms were so tiny, and the windows too small, and the light was too little!

And her children! — they were so disrespectful to their poor mother!

Her son just sat on his bed all day reading and reading and reading.

He looked like a big kosher dill pickle with a bump on it.

She would talk to him and he would just read and never answer.

She kvetched about him every day.

And she kvetched that she always had to walk to her daughter’s home,  because her daughter would not come visit her.

“She hardly even knows me anymore.

I’m her mother; who does she think she is?” she would say.

And as she walked to her daughter’s house, she complained that it was so far away.

“Oy vey,” she would say;  “My ankles get so swollen, they feel like big mushmelons.

And my back!! – Oy vey; it feels like the walls of Jericho have fallen upon me”.

And when she got there, she kvetched that her grandchildren paid no attention to her,  — they stayed away like she wasn’t even there!

Meshka was such a complainer! One night, she got to kvetching so much she rather outdid herself!

She kvetched about everything! – About her late husband, who died leaving her all alone  in this house that was so small, it felt like her arms and legs  were sticking out of the windows and the doors!

About her son, the kosher pickle with the bump and the daughter who lived so far away, and acted as if she didn’t know her and her feet like mushmelons and her back like the walls of Jericho had fallen upon it and her grandchildren that ignored and avoided her and her house that was too small and on and on and on, so that when she went to bed that night she was in a very, very, very bad mood, and slept very, very, very poorly.

In the morning when she awoke, something was very, very, very wrong.

Everything seemed so strange!

And she had an itch –a terrible itch on her tongue!

She scratched and she scratched and tried to make the itch go away.

She got cross-eyed from sticking out her tongue and trying to look at what was wrong!

And everything felt so strange.

Meshka struggled to get out of bed but her little house had shrunk to where she could hardly move.

Her house was so small, that her arms and legs were sticking out the windows and the doors!

When she finally got out of bed and squeezed over to her son’s room, –he wasn’t there!

Instead, lying on his bed was a big green kosher pickle with a bump on it.

Oy vey! What to do?

She struggled to get out of the house and she put on her warm coat and hat and walked to her daughter’s house but this time the walk really did seem like a hundred miles.

Her back ached like it was broken, and her feet felt like big swollen mushmelons.

When she got there, her daughter answered the door and said “Who are you?”; “What! My own daughter doesn’t know her mother??” The daughter said, “Go away, old woman; I don’t know you”.

What could she do?

So, Meshka turned away and walked back home, so sad.

On the way her feet and ankles felt so swollen and heavy that she looked down and they really were mushmelons!

And oooh! -her back felt like the walls of Jericho had fallen on her — and down Meshka fell with the walls of Jericho lying on top of her.

For some time, she just laid on the sidewalk, and Meshka cried and wailed with a loud voice.

As she lay there on the side of the street, the rabbi came by.

He walked past, then turned around and said, “Meshka, is that you? What happened to you?”

And Meshka began to kvetch about all her troubles: the house too small, the son like a kosher pickle with a bump on it, the daughter who didn’t know her anymore and her feet like mushmelons and her back with the walls of Jericho fallen on her.

The Rabbi stood there stroking his beard.

“Well, Meshka,” he sighed, “there is nothing to be done.  Good day.”

He turned and began to walk away.

“Oh Rabbi! Please! You must help me!”

Meshka lay there so pitifully.

The Rabbi turned back and looked deeply into her eyes.

Finally, he said, “Meshka, did you wake up with an itch on your tongue today?”

Why yes, she had, said Meshka.

And she began to kvetch about that to the rabbi too!

“Oh Oh Meshka”, said the rabbi, “you are in very bad trouble.

You have the kvetch itch!”

The kvetch itch? Meshka was stunned.

“Please Rabbi, tell me what can I do?”

“I’m sorry, Meshka, there is nothing to be done for you.  Good day to you.”

“Oh Rabbi, please! Help me, I will do anything you ask.”

“Anything?” said the Rabbi?   “Anything!” Meshka cried.

“Meshka, there is only one thing you can do, but you must do it yourself, and you must take care to do it exactly as I say.”

“Oh, yes, Rabbi. Anything!  I will do exactly as you say.”

The Rabbi told her that to get rid of all her troubles and to cure the kvetch itch, she must learn to praise God and to thank God for all her blessings.

Meshka thought about it and thought about it some more. Blessings?  The idea had never occurred to her before. In a fearful voice, she asked the Rabbi how to do this. The rabbi said to her,  “Say something nice about the son God gave you”.

Meshka looked at him and declared, “Oy Vey such a son. He is like a kosher pickle with a . . .” The Rabbi stopped her.

“Meshka, Meshka; that’s just more kvetching! If you will not give praise, I must leave you.”

Meshka sobbed and pleaded with him and then she grew silent as she thought about how to give praise.

Finally she said, “God has given me … a good son …who has such a …love for knowledge that he reads and reads and reads so that some day, he will do something great with his knowledge and maybe help many people”. The Rabbi smiled.

And then Meshka said something nice about her daughter, and her grandchildren, and about her late husband, and the house he had built, and so on.

It was not very long before the weight started to lift off her back and her legs felt strong enough to carry her again, — not like mushmelons anymore.

The Rabbi took Meshka by the hand and helped her to her feet.

And he blessed her, saying,  “Baruch HaShem!” “Blessed is the Name” and went on his way.

Soon, Meshka arrived home to find her house was normal and lovely. She smiled a beautiful smile.

Her husband, bless his memory, had indeed built her a wonderful, sturdy, cozy home.

They had shared so many memories and happy times.

“Baruch HaShem” she said softly.

She walked in the door and her son was there –reading of course, but he got up and kissed her.

Taking her coat, he ushered her to the dining room, where she found her daughter with all the grandchildren

They had prepared a wonderful dinner.

The table was set as if it were for a Passover Seder.

Her daughter and grandchildren hugged Meshka and blessed her with their love.

And the family sat down to the best dinner they had ever had together!

What a day this had been. Never again did Meshka have an itch on her tongue.

And from that time on, whenever anyone mentioned the name of Meshka, they never said the “K” word.

But they all will say, to this very day, what a thankful person that Meshka is. –Baruch HaShem!!

Gratitude isn’t an emotion many people cultivate today; maybe that’s why we need a holiday like Thanksgiving Day.

But perhaps we would think differently about thankfulness if we realized its extraordinary power to improve our lives.

Gratitude isn’t about polite manners or courtesy. Gratitude is nothing less than the key to happiness. Think about it.

We tend to think that being unhappy is what leads people to complain, but isn’t it truer to say that it is complaining that leads to people becoming unhappy?

All truly happy people are grateful, and ungrateful people cannot be happy.

This helps explain why the Judeo-Christian tradition places such emphasis on thanking God.

The scriptures are filled with expressions of gratitude.

“This is the day that the Lord has made. Let us rejoice and be glad in it!” says Psalm 118.

Psalm 100, urges us to “Enter God’s gates with thanksgiving, God’s courts with praise; Give thanks and bless the name of the Lord.

“It is good to give thanks to the Lord,” the 92nd Psalm begins.

“Let us give thanks to the Lord our God.”  the Communion liturgy says.

“It is right to give God thanks and praise”

Why?  Because God needs our gratitude?   No: because we need it.

Someone has said that learning to be thankful, whether to God or to other people, is the best vaccination against taking our lives and our good fortune for granted.

If you never give a moment’s thought to the fact that your health is good, that your children and grandchildren are well-fed, that your home is comfortable, that your community is secure, if you assume that the good things in your life are ”normal” and to be expected, you diminish the happiness they can bring you day after day, moment by moment.

But if you develop the habit of counting your blessings as special treasures for this day, and giving thanks for them, you will fill your life with joy.

It can be hard to do.  Like most useful skills, it takes years of  practice before it becomes second nature.

People who thank God before each meal, for example, or at the beginning of each day or at the end of each day, build the habit of gratitude in themselves.

In so doing, they open the door to gladness.

This is one reason that religion, and almost any spiritual discipline, sincerely practiced, leads to  happiness – it ingrains the habits of thankfulness.

So as you gather with family or friends this week to celebrate your blessings, you yourselves will be  blessed most of all.

Baruch HaShem Adonai.  Blessed be the name of the Lord.