Thanksgiving: A Jewish Holiday?


 

Author:

Matt Rosenberg

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This is part of the on-gong series of Divrei Torah being published on the NECHAMA, Jewish Response to Disaster web site and subsequently sent to our e-mail community.

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November is often a month without any Jewish holidays. But, can we count Thanksgiving as a Jewish holiday?

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 November 22nd, 2011

Thanksgiving: A Jewish Holiday?


Matt Rosenberg

A psalm of praise. Raise a shout for God, all the earth; worship Adonai in gladness; come into God’s presence with shouts of joy. Acknowledge that Adonai is God; God made us and we are God’s, Adonai’s people, the flock God tends. Enter God’s gates with praise, God’s courts with acclamation. Praise God! Bless God’s name! For Adonai is good; God’s steadfast love is eternal; God’s faithfulness is for all generations. – Psalm 100 (JPS translation)

Many of our psalms, such as psalm 100 above, speak of giving praise and thanks to God for all that God has bestowed upon us. Psalm 100 is one of the thanks-giving psalms and is recited in daily worship. It speaks to thankfulness and expresses the heart of the great American holiday of Thanksgiving.

November is often a month without any Jewish holidays. But, can we count Thanksgiving as a Jewish holiday? The concept of giving thanks is not foreign to Judaism. Offerings of thanks were made in the ancient Temple in Jerusalem and much of our liturgy is centered around giving thanks, such as Psalm 100.

The sharing of a meal surrounded by friends and family is a very Jewish way of celebrating a holiday. The Passover seder, the meals before and after the fast of Yom Kippur, the plethora of meals in the Sukkah during Sukkot are just a few of the times of gathering together over a communal meal. The modern Thanksgiving meal, with its traditional and symbolic foods of that historic first Thanksgiving in the New World, reminds us of the founding of our nations, on its principles of religious freedom.

Additionally, the custom of sharing what one is grateful for over the past year can be somewhat likened to the self-accounting that took place during the High Holy Days just a few weeks ago. During the High Holy Days we reflect on the aspects of ourselves that we’d like to change and improve; during Thanksgiving we have the opportunity to reflect on the happiness and blessings that were part of our life. Thanksgiving is indeed a great Jewish holiday, to be celebrated to its fullest.

Unfortunately, for many families affected by disaster, Thanksgiving represents the beginning of a difficult and cold holiday season working to recover. Thanks to people like you who support agencies such as NECHAMA with your time and donations, more families are more able to be grateful for their blessings such as a roof over their heads.

Yom Hodu Sameach! Happy Thanksgiving!



Matt Rosenberg is a Rabbinical Student at American Jewish University in California and a Nechama volunteer. He can be reached at rosenbergmatt@gmail.com

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