November 17, 2022

Really, Could Thanksgiving Be Any More Jew-ish?

Robert Lichtman Chief Jewish Learning Officer
Here’s the basic framework of a holiday. Try to guess who celebrates it.

  • Families gather for a festive meal.
  • The traditional main course is poultry.
  • A key offering on the menu is stuffing (kishka).
  • The meal and the day celebrate the harvest season.
  • Throughout the day, and particularly at the meal, we reflect and offer Thanks to G-d.

I celebrate Thanksgiving as a Jew-ish holiday. Here are some of the reasons why I love it:

  • November usually coincides with the Hebrew month of Cheshvan. So bereft of Jewish holidays is Cheshvan (especially compared with the previous month which is so replete with Jewish celebration) that we call it MarCheshvan – Bitter Cheshvan. Along comes Thanksgiving to the rescue.
  • Thanksgiving is only one day and does not go through a repeat for day two.
  • I get off from work and don’t have to spend the whole morning in shul.
  • My family does not drive on Jewish holidays, but on Thanksgiving we can travel to be together, or gather in different constellations moving from one feast to another, observing the rituals of the day, offering appropriate Thanks to G-d, and ending up in our own beds at night.

We have absorbed Thanksgiving as if it was ours because Jews are Thanks-givers. Our very designation as Jews comes from the name of our ancestor Judah (Yehuda, and we are Yehudim) which means to offer Thanks to G-d, as we and most Americans do on this holiday.

We also recognize that if this year’s celebration is no different than last year’s, we are missing the opportunity to grow as Jews and as human beings. So, as we prepare to celebrate this wonderful (and yes, historically and politically fraught) holiday, here is a thought for you: Among all the blessings that spring wholeheartedly from our lips, there’s one that goes like this, “Blessed are You, G-d, Sovereign of the Universe Who gave us the Torah of truth and implanted eternal life within us. Blessed are You, G-d, Giver of the Torah.”

Thanksgiving feasts are fabulous. But Eternal Life, how can you beat that? The true life-source for the Jewish People is Torah. We are thankful that we live in Greater MetroWest, a community that offers many opportunities to pursue life-giving Torah.

To get your thankful thoughts moving, you are invited to open this link that will bring you to some trigger texts and questions to enrich your holiday.

Happy Thanksgiving – and every day, as we give thanks.


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