As America is about to celebrate the holiday of Thanksgiving next week, let also do thank you, not just say it. A good deed will reverberate in the world infinitely more than a good word. As Rabbi Shimon ben Gamliel so poignantly teaches in the Ethics of our Fathers (1:17): "The essential thing is not the spoken word, but deed."

Rabbi Allouche

A few years ago, an international convention of neurologists discussed the medical condition of people fainting upon waking up in the morning.

One of the lecturers revealed that she had determined that “the sharp change in the position of our bodies from lying down to standing up, does not allow enough time for sufficient blood to flow back to the brain, hence, some people faint.”

Her solution was simple: Before rising up from our beds, we ought to wait 12 seconds to allow enough time for sufficient blood to flow back to our brains. She guaranteed that this practice will eliminate any dizziness and faint upon waking up.

At the conclusion of her lecture, a Jewish professor revealed to her an astonishing fact: 

“For centuries, Jews have been reciting a 12-word prayer of gratitude to G-d, as soon as they open their eyes in the morning, even before they rise from bed. If one says this prayer slowly, with focus and concentration, it will take 12 seconds to say it. Isn’t it astonishing that our heritage has held this medical treasure for so many thousands of years? And isn’t it inspiring that a simple Jewish prayer of gratitude can fortify us with renewed health and vigor, each and every day?

Indeed, a simple prayer of gratitude can transform our days. And it can create a paradigm shift of perspective on our lives and their countless blessings; on our souls and their endless potential; on our G-d and His infinite grace.

If this prayer is not a part of your morning ritual yet, I humbly encourage you to include it, if only, in honor of Thanksgiving. Let us recite it together, today, and every day, as soon as we awake in the morning:

מודֶה אֲנִי לְפָנֶיךָ מֶלֶךְ חַי וְקַיָּם, שֶׁהֶחֱזַרְתָּ בִּי נִשְׁמָתִי בְּחֶמְלָה, רַבָּה אֱמוּנָתֶךָ
“I thank you, living and eternal King, for mercifully returning my soul to me. Great is your faithfulness.”

———-

But, as we all know, actions speak louder than words.

Perhaps, this is why, this “thank-you” prayer recited every morning, is, immediately, followed by the action of washing our hands. This simple act comes to ensure that we translate our words of gratitude to G-d for returning our souls into our bodies, into actions that aim to maintain the purity of our heavenly soul and the cleanliness of our bodies. 

I recall how my beloved mentor, Rabbi Adin Even-Israel Steinsaltz of blessed memory — who despised flowery words and superficial shows — once told me that “the world would be a much more beautiful place if people would do thank-you, instead of just saying thank-you.” 

When I asked him what he meant, he replied: “Say you just gave a poor man some money. Now, if he is polite, he will probably say “thank-you.” But, imagine if this poor man would learn from you and, in return for your act of kindness, he would also do a good deed. Wouldn’t that help our world much more than his words of gratitude?”

As America is about to celebrate the holiday of Thanksgiving next week, let also do thank you, not just say it. A good deed will reverberate in the world infinitely more than a good word.  As Rabbi Shimon ben Gamliel so poignantly teaches in the Ethics of our Fathers (1:17): “The essential thing is not the spoken word, but deed.” 

And in the spirit of doing thank you for all of the blessings that G-d has given us, please join our Mitzvah bank, if you haven’t had, and add a Mitzvah in loving memory of our beloved Rabbi Adin Even-Israel Steinsaltz. 

It can be anything: from wrapping Tefillin, to affixing Mezuzot on all your doorposts, to going to the Mikvah, to lighting Shabbat candles, to helping the needy, to visiting the sick.  

Your “doing thank-you” will surely make a difference in our world, today, tomorrow, and forever.