There is no more perfect secular holiday than Thanksgiving. It has a universal message, warm traditions, and is versatile enough to work to all kinds of people. I think it’s especially wonderful that so many Jewish people, including Orthodox Jews, have embraced Thanksgiving.
On a Jewish level there is nothing more basic than giving thanks. Gratitude begins the moment we arise with Modeh Ani. But that is a private declaration of appreciation to God. Thanksgiving gives us an opportunity to build greater gratitude with our friends and family. It’s a time to publicly give thanks to God and all the people in our lives who deserves appreciation. It’s true that we must be thankful everyday, but setting aside one day a year as a communal expression of appreciation is a wise tradition.
Further, Jews need to be thankful simply for the existence of Thanksgiving. It is a uniquely American holiday and we have been blessed in America, flourishing and growing in unprecedented numbers. Thanksgiving celebrates America. We must celebrate America too. Indeed, we must be thankful for Thanksgiving itself.
Most of all, Thanksgiving gives us a splendid opportunity to share in an American tradition with our fellow Americans. So many other American traditions are antithetical to Torah and Judaism. We can’t in good conscience join in those celebrations. Christmas? Drinking and debauchery on New Years? Easter? as well as several other hallowed American traditions are not our traditions. But this one, Thanksgiving, that’s right in our wheelhouse. It gives us the chance to join together with the rest of America and in unison say thank you. That in itself is worth the effort to participate in the holiday. Although we don’t primarily associate as Americans, rather we are Jews first, it is a powerful declaration of unity to connect with 300 million Americans from diverse backgrounds, with a plurality of beliefs to celebrate Thanksgiving.
This year it’s even more fun as we can merge and meld some of our Chanukah traditions with Thanksgiving. The connections between the two holidays are self evident. Both were belated Sukkos style celebrations giving thanks to God. They are like siblings from the same parents.
Let’s enjoy the holiday and be proud to live in a country that makes a holiday out of giving thanks, just like us.
"Chanukah and Thanksgiving were belated Sukkos style celebrations thanking God, like siblings from the same parents." http://t.co/613YMSw3Ws
— Eliyahu Fink (@efink) November 28, 2013