I have no idea how many of you will be offering up a prayer of thanksgiving before you sit down to the turkey and trimmings, Thursday afternoon. I truly hope that you do offer up such a prayer. In fact, I am providing you with three different prayer topics that you may wish to chew on. Feel free to use any, all or a combination of the ideas I present below:
Coming from an Eastern European heritage where our ancestors were treated as second class citizens at best, Thanksgiving is a national holiday in which we Jews can fully participate with no reservations on our part whatsoever. Can you imagine if the Pilgrims had dined on wild boar for their first Thanksgiving? Can you imagine if no Thanksgiving dinner would be complete without curds and whey? Can you imagine if the Plymouth pilgrims had chowed down on clam chowder for their first Thanksgiving? Thankfully, turkey was the fare, and even if Turkey was a strange bird to us Jews in every sense of the word, our rabbinic leaders concurred that the fowl was edible, as incredible as that might be. And the pumpkin pie along with the sweet potatoes and stuffing or dressing also comes with rabbinic endorsement, provided of course all ingredients added to the pumpkin pie, sweet potatoes, stuffing or dressing are kosher.
Thanksgiving is the “wince less before Wenceslas”. Several years back in December, Sarah Moore who worked in the Tiferet office, was kind enough to run an errand with me. Sarah followed me in my car as I dropped off my wife’s car at the mechanic. Driving back to Tiferet (Sarah was at the wheel) Christmas music was playing on the car radio. “Would you like me to switch stations”, Sarah instinctively asked. I reassured Sarah that I was a fan of any number of Christmas songs, especially those orchestrated by Manheim Steamroller. I may or may not be in the minority of rabbis who has an appetite for Christmas songs. There are other rabbis no doubt as well as other Jews for that matter who wince at songs that deal with subject matter that evokes negative associations. Not so Thanksgiving. Other than not receiving a much hoped for invitation, or having to eat the meat of the Turkey you must grin and bear whenever it is served to you, there is nothing offensive or hurtful about Thanksgiving to any religion, including ours. We Jews have every reason to be thankful, that there is nothing offensive about Thanksgiving – unless of course you simply detest turkey.
There are “date sensitive” holidays and there are “day sensitive” holidays. The former refer to those holidays that are celebrated on a specific date on the calendar regardless of the day of the week that it falls out. The latter refer to those holidays that are celebrated on a specific day of the week, regardless of the date on the calendar. Christmas is “date sensitive”; Thanksgiving is “day sensitive”. As Jews, it should hardly matter if Christmas day falls on Shabbat, or the day before or after. As Jews, it matters a great deal, that Thanksgiving always falls on a Thursday, giving us plenty of time to prepare for Shabbat. For this too, we owe a big debt of thanks.
On Thursday, as we sit down to our Thanksgiving repast, let us be sensitive to the bountiful blessing this country affords us. Let us be cognizant of the challenges those who went before us had to deal with to secure the freedom that is ours. Let us be aware how truly blessed we Jews are to be able to celebrate a holiday that is so very “kosher” in so many ways.