The 100-A-Day Challenge is not some new diet fad, workout routine, or gimmick to try. Rather, it’s a spiritual exercise meant to help reap physical and spiritual rewards. Last week I took on this challenge, and here is what I did: Every day for that week, I decided to write down one hundred gratitude moments a day. I was really interested to see what would happen next.
I was inspired to do this by a beautiful story in Rabbi Shalom Arush’s book, Say Thank You And See Miracles, called “20 Million Thanks.”
Avi Hershko from Brooklyn prints and distributes blank gratitude notebooks for people to write 100 “gratitudes” a day. His project enables people to become more cognizant of Hashem’s kindness with just one page per day. After completing 40 full pages, the notebook contains a total of 4,000 gratitudes. One time, Hershko paid for the printing of 5,000 notebooks, the equivalent of 20 million thank yous to Hashem.
Why would he take this project upon himself?
Hershko is an investment banker at a well-known company in New York. His coworker, Jonathan (not his real name), was a close friend, and confided that he sat down and wrote a long list of one hundred thank yous every day. Initially, Hershko scoffed at his efforts and made fun of his Pollyanna attitude.
Avi thought, I also thank G-d in my daily prayers – why bother writing it down?
But when Jonathan shared the details of his personal story, Hershko was blown away.
Jonathan would write down 99 thank yous a day, leaving the last space blank. At the end of the day, he would reflect on the most special moment of gratitude of all and thank Hashem specifically for that impactful blessing.
One evening, he was having trouble thinking of his final gratitude of the day. He randomly decided to thank Hashem for the fact that he speaks a second language fluently – Spanish.
The next day, Jonathan’s company got a call from a potential client with significant assets, looking to place his funds somewhere. They had one requirement: The advisor must speak Spanish fluently in order to secure the account. Jonathan was given the account based on this sole fact. It was his largest account up until that point, providing him with a very lucrative opportunity.
After hearing Jonathan’s story, Hershko gradually incorporated this form of tangible thankfulness into his life. He even started thanking G-d for his perceived “bad” moments, and believes he is happier because of it. He shared this newfound tool with others, and hopes that they too will find increased joy throughout their day.
Long before attempting this challenge, I had been writing a gratitude log for years. Each day, I wrote down my gratitudes, but never attempted to write more than a few a day. I was surprised at how quickly I drew a blank when going for a hundred. Embarrassingly, I found myself stuck looking for new “content” to thank Hashem for.
After digging deep and forcing myself to come up with new material to thank Hashem for, I noticed more instances of Divine intervention throughout the week. One experience in particular stands out.
On a day with no school, I decided to splurge and take my daughters out for an afternoon treat. I paid for parking in front of a nail salon, and walked across the street to enjoy ice cream with the girls. We then headed back across the street to enjoy a manicure. As we approached my parked car, I saw a man in a uniform staring at my car like he was going to write a parking ticket. I stopped him and said, “Wait, please don’t give me a ticket, I paid for parking!”
He responded, “Oh, I’m not a parking attendant, I was just looking at my phone and happened to be standing next to your car. Sorry about that.”
At that very moment, an actual parking enforcement officer started to drive up close to my car. I saw her writing a ticket and I said, “Wait, ma’am, I paid for parking.”
“Okay, well, you better pay now…” she warned as she drove off.
But I did pay, I thought.
When I looked at the meter, I realized that I actually hadn’t paid after all. Only because the random, uniformed man had stood near my car did I notice the meter maid and the subsequent unpaid meter. Because of this hashgacha pratis, I was able to pay the meter and enjoy my manicure ticket-free.
Throughout the week, whenever I got stuck on what to write down during my 100-A-Day Challenge, I would simply look around me and thank Hashem for the objects, nature, and beauty before my eyes. I started to really see what was in front of me. Suddenly, everything presented to my visual cortex served as a cue to say thank you.
For example, when I was sitting in my backyard, I noticed the veins throughout the leaves that help to nourish the trees, and the sun beaming off individual blades of grass.
When inside my office, I thanked Hashem for ink, technology, the speed of emails, and the ability to formulate understandable sentences.
Later on in the kitchen, I noticed the plethora of food available to me, and modern luxuries like a dishwasher and microwave that even kings didn’t have access to a century ago.
This exercise caused me to really take note of the depth of color and surrounding sounds in the world around me. Not only was my brain primed to see good, I was now actively looking for it, and was enjoying life more because of that pursuit.
This 100-A-Day Challenge isn’t just a concept popularized by people like Rabbi Arush and Avi Hershko. It is a mitzvah to recite one hundred brachot a day. The Talmud cites this by asking, “And now, Yisrael, what does Hashem ask of you? Only that you remain in awe of Hashem.” Commentaries note that the word “what,” mah, can also be understood as me’ah, one hundred.
In her book Arise and Aspire, Rebbetzin Shira Smiles relates that see, re’iyah and fear, yir’ah, share the same root. In other words, to remain with yir’ah, with fear and awe of Hashem, we have to re’iyah – see the multiple acts of goodness bestowed on us daily by Hashem.
Sitting down and writing a hundred gratitudes encourages your mind to do just that. What better way to build your relationship with Hashem than to try to log 100 thank yous in a day?
I think sometimes our spirituality has limits that we don’t even realize exist. Having to write over 700 gratitude moments forced me to push my limits with emunah and hakaras hatov. Just as having kavanah (concentration) when praying is very difficult to achieve for long stretches, writing a meaningful, lengthy list of gratitudes can be difficult. This activity forced me to push myself a little further and recognize that surface-level Judaism won’t cut it if you really want to grow in a serious way.
Creating an in-depth gratitude log can solidify and strengthen our belief in Hashem’s minute-to-minute involvement in our lives. It enables us to really ponder how dependent we are on Hashem for our basic functioning and all of the details throughout our day. Try it out, and see for yourself as the blessings unfold before your eyes.
As far as the miracles I saw in my own life that week, there wasn’t anything earth-shattering to report. A young woman I had been trying to set up for years said yes to a match I suggested; the kids magically cooperated in the carpool ride home; and then parent-teacher conference calls went better than expected. Oh, and also there was that near-miss of a parking ticket!
But maybe that was the whole point of the exercise – to resensitize myself to the incredible miracles we all experience daily without even recognizing them. I’m still waiting for the next mega-miracle in my life, but who knows? The best is yet to come!