In the evening and morning prayers, Jews remember that God brought us out from the land of Egypt “to be thy God.” During Passover, we are obliged to view ourselves as if each of us, personally, shook off the Pharaoh’s yoke. By reenacting the biblical exodus we are re-experiencing it to not forget whence we came.
I’ve taken the liberty to dress this tradition with my own style. Beyond remembering slavery, I am grateful for my present as a free man. I also use this daily sacred time to recollect other exoduses to a cherished future. I bear in mind that these words would not be here if God hadn’t ushered my grandparents to freedom during the Holocaust. Afterwards, I raise another prayer of thanksgiving for living in the United States, because the homeland of my identity, Venezuela, was kidnapped by an atrocious political system — an adversary of harmony and democracy.
The Pilgrims who came to America seeking religious freedom sowed the seeds of the moral values of this dear second homeland that opened her arms to me — and to waves and waves of other immigrants like us — with generosity, impeccable kindness and opportunities for progress. This is a great reason to keep the flame of gratitude aglow permanently, especially when watching the human ignominy that scourges other countries. We are truly blessed to live in America!
Because I celebrate each day as if it were the last and eternal; because I give thanks every day; because I wipe the slate of transgressions daily, I am not fond of birthdays, or new years, or secular holidays, or religious holidays, or commercial holidays like Mother’s Day (sorry, mom.) So I spent this Thanksgiving Day writing in the nest of my solitude — accompanied by my cats, Gala and Dalí, and by the presence of Catholic Monsignor Agustín Román, who oversees my painstaking writing of his biography.
At sunset, even though it’s not traditional, I wrapped myself in a tallit, the large sheet-like fringed shawl used in Jewish liturgical services — my fringes are in color, like Joseph’s coat of many colors — that symbolizes God’s infinite transcendent light in everyday’s creation.
Then, I followed a sort of my own invention ritual: listing 100 blessings, which I habitually recite in these “special” days as an offering of gratitude. It might seem that 100 is too great a number to be true. But, when I open my heart and clear my mind, my soul senses the rising of feelings that set my inspiration afire.
From the gift of life, the love of God, peace, the five senses, self-acceptance, to family, health, self-determination, friends, work, the eagerness to help others, a balcony with an ocean-view, a full refrigerator, and a washing machine in-house, I perceive an abundance of spiritual, emotional and material blessings.
Meanwhile, in the midst of this wonderful gratefulness, I received an email from a friend in Mexico with a link to an Internet site devoted to rumors about Apple. The article was titled Black Friday 2013: Best deals on the iPad. I confess that I’ve never had a tablet-device and not long ago I consulted with him about the iPads, since I thought of purchasing one.
The hefty discounts offered by the big chains leave anyone open-mouthed. The companies reduce the price of these very desirable products to hook the consumers who, once in the stores, fill the carts like Santa Claus, with TV sets, cameras, mobile devices, other electronic equipment and household appliances that are very profitable to the merchants. Well, the new 16GB iPad Air – retail price $499 – cost $379 at Target, whose doors opened at 8 p.m. on Thanksgiving Day.
To go, or not to go, that is the question. Should I join consumerism or avoid a headache? But the price is tempting; it is a useful tool for a journalist and I could take a break from so much typing all day long. Could I find a patient friend who might come with me to join the human stampede that elbows and pushes its way into the stores with stomachs filled with roast turkey, pumpkin pie and pecan pie?
The time came to leave my cave, engage in a criticized night adventure in the city and perhaps stumble on a topic for a column. Unwilling to take many risks and to avoid Friday’s madness, we arrived at Target in Midtown past 8 o’clock. The “pilgrims” of capitalism were already entering the store. Admirably, the line was straight and respectful.
Once inside, we had to stand in another line that weaved around the supermarket’s refrigerators to acquire Apple products — next to the apples. Ahead of me, a Hispanic woman pushing an overflowing cart phoned her husband to ask what else she should buy for him. Behind me, three charming African-American young women complained about the chaos that hampered their access to Walmart earlier and gave me useful shopping tips.
The wait was relatively short, since I knew what I was there for. I didn’t feel so guilty, after all, about transgressing the holiday’s spirit. Two and a half hours after I left home, I had returned. My cats were delighted. And so was my 100-blessing list, which welcomed one more.
Daniel Shoer Roth, El Nuevo Herald’s Metro columnist, writes a monthly column about spirituality and values.