The WORD 11/21/12. I have always been struck by the Jewishness of Thanksgiving. Despite our best efforts to link the first Thanksgiving celebration to the Festival of Sukkot, there is no direct proof of such a relationship. Nonetheless, the message is totally consistent with our values and traditions.
The underlying message of Thanksgiving is really rather simple: we should all take a moment to express our gratitude to God for the blessings in our lives.
In this week’s Torah portion, Yaakov did just that. After an intense series of experiences – he traded a pot of stew for his family’s birthright, disguised himself as his brother to confuse his father, escaped his brother’s wrath and then dreamt an incredible dream about God and the angels – Yaakov paused for a moment to acknowledge God.
Yaakov then asked for God’s protection, made a commitment to God and pledged to create a home for God.
As we join together with our families for Thanksgiving, we should take the opportunity to follow Yaakov’s example. We too have been through an intense series of experiences – hurricanes, blackouts and Nor’easters just to name a few. We ought to take a moment during our celebration to reach out to God. Not only should we thank God for the year that has passed, but we should pray for a future filled with God’s blessings. Further, we should take a moment to re-commit ourselves to God and to make room for God in our lives.
We can do this in a number of ways. Although Thanksgiving is considered a secular holiday, we can add some traditional Jewish prayers such as HaMotzi or the Shehechyanu. We can add a prayer for peace, a prayer for our country or a prayer for Israel. Or, we can pray silently, giving everyone the opportunity to say thanks to God individually. In so doing, we can transform a family gathering into a sacred moment.
Jodi and the kids join me in wishing you a Happy Thanksgiving.