Thanksgiving Through Jewish Eyes

We usually think of Thanksgiving as a secular American holiday based on the story of the Pilgrims. But if you take another look, you can find some Biblical ways to see, enhance and enjoy this wonderful holiday.

We all learned the story about the Pilgrims in school, that these were Christian people who fled to the New World to establish a new life for themselves. Things were difficult for them in this country and they suffered greatly. But they did take a timeout from their struggling lives to have a feast and say thank you to God. The rest is history. And now we get Thursday and Friday off every year, the postal service stops delivery and we pig out…let me make that kosher: we eat a big meal!

What does this have to do with Biblical Judaism? On the surface, not too much.

But, if you look just a little beneath the surface, it is easy to find a Biblical connection. Were the Pilgrims Hebrews (Jewish)? Of course not, but they were spiritual people (often called Puritans for their effort to return to a pure Bible faith). They were very aware of the Hebrew Bible and kept all of the Biblical Holy Days as part of their faith.

In the fall of the year, at the end of the harvest season is the feast of Sukkot (English: Tabernacles). This thanksgiving to God for his provision was a part of the lives of these believers. I believe this is what has been passed down to us today that is called Thanksgiving.

Consider this: the Holy Days as described in our Bible are really thanksgiving holidays: Passover, Sukkot, Shavuot, Hanukkah, Purim and so on. The Biblical calendar is full of these Holidays (Holy Days). They are structured ways to reinforce the belief in the one true God.

Going beyond that, the Bible tells us to be constantly thankful–on a daily and hourly basis. That is one of the reasons we have a blessing for everything. Many blessings are really prayers of thanksgiving and we have a blessing for almost anything you can imagine: eating, getting up in the morning, seeing something beautiful in nature, encountering a smart person, everything! I have always loved the example of how we have a blessing for everything found in the play Fiddler on the Roof. When the village of Anatevka’s Rabbi is asked if there is even a blessing for the wicked and anti-Semitic Czar, the Rabbi replies: “May the Lord bless and keep the Czar… far away from us!”






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