The other day I stepped into the supermarket with a list mainly comprising fruits and vegetables. I walked over to the fresh produce aisle and sighed in disappointment. We are between seasons now in Israel; neither here nor there. The last of the late-summer/fall fruits were mushy and poor quality. The few new fall/winter fruits and vegetables in stock looked unripe and flavorless and were expensive to boot.

A nostalgic memory of my childhood inWe are between seasons now in Israel Northern California, where according to my memory, you could get delicious and reasonably priced produce all year round, popped into my mind.

I sighed again and was on the verge of complaining to my daughter when I looked over at the the man picking through the soggy cucumbers right by me. His face, crumpled in a grimace as he looked for a hard cucumber, said it all. I realized I didn’t want that to be a mirror image of my own.

“Elana,” I reminded myself. “You don’t have to buy anything. It’s your choice.”

Just saying those words “your choice” stopped me from wanting to complain. Then I told myself, “Who says that you should be able to get anything you want whenever you want it?” I thought of my reaction to (what I perceive as) my children’s nonstop demands, and how I feel at times that they aren’t happy with what they have and demand more. These thoughts put a complete stop to my internal whining about produce as I realized that just maybe they learn this from me!

I sighed as I thought of the gorgeous summer fruits I’d bought a few weeks earlier. How easy it is to take what feels like “a given” for granted! I imagined myself enjoying a ripe and delicious juicy winter pomelo. In a few weeks, they will be in the stores. I know that waiting for them will make me enjoy them that much more. How much happiness a person feels when they have something that they understand is difficult in coming or something that is not an “automatic.”

Which made me think about the daily prayer schedule instituted by the sages. I’ll be honest with you; I know that sometimes praying from a prayer book—the same prayer every day—can be monotonous and dull. Judaism is such a spiritually elevating, dynamic, exciting religion. It is so alive and encompasses every aspect, every stage of life (and death). There is always something to look forward to, always something to prepare for, always something new to learn and to delve into to gain greater understanding on a higher level. So I never understood why exactly the sages, in their Divine wisdom, gave us something to say that is repetitive and, well, quite honestly, somewhat boring.

I understand a person who is, G‑d forbid, sick and prays with fervor for health, but what about someone who is healthy? Someone who lives in conflict all the time, I understand them praying for peace, but what about someone whose life is quite peaceful? I understand praying for a job by someone who has no livelihood, but why should a person who has a steady financial situation pray for subsistence? Is there a purpose to prayer more than just for making a request, asking for something?

Perhaps the reason we pray for these things on a regular basis is that we are praying for others who do need them. But I think there’s more. We need to understand that nothing in life, including life itself, should be taken for granted. Our daily prayers give us an opportunity to be grateful for all that we have—not just for something that comes with difficulty. Why should one have the test of illness in order to appreciate health? Why should we need the test of poverty to appreciate wealth?

The Torah tells us that Leah named her son Yehuda, because, “Now I will thank (Odeh, root of Yehuda) G‑d” (Bereishit 29:35). Then she ceased to have children. The Seer of Lublin explained that since she thanked G‑d for the children He had given her but did not pray for more, she ceased to give birth.

Everything, every single thing, is a gift. When I think about that, really contemplate it, I’m awed by how much I have. When a person lives each moment without expectations, complaints or grievances, do you know what happens? They feel happy and content.

Every Shabbat, I try to make my way toEverything is a gift shul. I bring my youngest children with me to hear the Torah reading, and I stay for the musaf service to hear the Priestly Blessing which is done every Shabbat in my shul. I close my eyes and concentrate on the blessing, “May God bless you and protect you.” I think of all the blessings that I want and ask for. I try to tune in to the fact that G‑d is the Source of all blessing. I also pause and reflect on the second part of this blessing and think to myself, “G‑d, You give me so much! Please safeguard all that I have, that I shouldn’t misuse or lose it!”

All of these thoughts came to me in the produce aisle at the supermarket when I stood there between seasons looking at what there was. Without thinking, I broke out into a smile, and do you know what happened? That man, the one with the previously sour expression, he saw me, shrugged his shoulders and said, “This is what there is and whatever there is, it is good.”