To be truly grateful


      Rabbi Irwin Wiener, D.D.


The Fourth of July commemoration enables us to comprehend the true meaning of freedom.  As Americans we are indeed fortunate to participate in an endless list of freedoms, and those yet to be discovered. For example: There is the freedom to express ourselves so that others may understand our needs and aspirations, there is the freedom to worship, or not, depending upon our understanding of faith, there is the freedom to live our lives in accordance with our desires, accepting the fact that we are obligated to include respect for others, there is the freedom to express gratitude to our founders for their inspiration, wisdom, and foresight, in establishing an atmosphere of patriotism founded on the premise of equality.


However, with all these freedoms we neglect to remember the most important freedom of all: Tolerance. This phenomenal holiday should help us realize that we are responsible for each other and that there can be no jubilation without this moral standard.  We are responsible for our actions and for the consequences of these actions.  We are also responsible to ourselves to ensure that our lives will have meaning and purpose.


Our lives are tenuous, our existence indeed fragile, and the gift of life and all our freedoms can be so temporary that we must take the time to celebrate, rejoice, and be thankful.  This was the greatest lesson afforded us by our founders.  They sacrificed everything so that this experiment called America would see the light of day and be perpetuated for all time.


Each day we awake to new miracles: Grass that grows and is not trampled by marching hoards trying to undo our freedoms, birth and even death are part of the equation of miracles helping us realize that our future is more secure with each new generation, the first steps we take to enable us to reach heights never imagines and sometimes beyond our understanding, and when we leave to marvel in the knowledge that our progeny will enjoy all this because of us.


We live in a country that espouses all that is good in the human spirit, a country that enables us to constantly remind ourselves of who we are - Americans devoted to the exploration of the imagination.  We are Americans who treasure benevolence and practice it every waking moment.  We are Americans who know that we have failings because we are human but also realize that we can overcome these fallibilities with compassion.  We are Americans thankful for the men and women who proudly wear the uniform of service, here and abroad, who sacrifice daily for these freedoms.


Families will gather to feast and celebrate.  Parades will be held to remember those no longer able to participate because of service to country.  We will tell stories of yesterday as well as plan for tomorrow.  We will reflect on the need to eliminate the insignificant things that make us feel trapped because we need to concentrate on being happy and thankful.  Sometimes we forget how fortunate we are.


To me, all these things are what the Fourth of July signifies.  It also signifies the wonderfulness of life, the magic of the day and night.  It signifies the hopes and dreams of all who find their way to our shores to soak in the freedom of being free.


Perhaps we should not forget to thank God for enabling us to live in the United States of America, for providing the safety of our dreams with those who sacrifice day in and day out.  Most of all we should be thankful for each other as the dreamers dreamt two hundred forty-three years ago