Thanksgiving has always been my favorite American holiday. The fact that it has gotten so lost, and is now simply a shopping day and a stepping stone to Christmas makes me very sad.
I miss being back East with my family. I miss the tradition we used to have, alternating between my parents’ house in Jersey and my Uncle’s house in Philly. I miss the smells of the house filled with turkey and stuffing. I miss the black olives I used to put on my fingers as a kid.
Yes, I can still have all these things… Well, playing with olives is probably not advised… But I do have family out here… I can put a turkey in my oven and make all of my holiday favorites. But things change… times change… they grow different as we grow older.
Thanksgiving was about family… being together and celebrating… overeating and watching football… It was about the colors of Fall and the cool temperatures… things that California doesn’t quite offer.
Thanksgiving should still be about family and friends, and giving thanks. This is the crux of the holiday. This is what it is all about… what life is all about.
As to whether or not Jews celebrate it, I did some research and found, according to the Jewish Virtual Library:
“Unlike other celebrations, such as Halloween, halacha does not prohibit Jewish participation in Thanksgiving because the holiday has secular, not religious origins and undertones. Jews are forbidden by the Torah to partake in “gentile customs,” a prohibition derived from Leviticus 18:3, but most do not consider Thanksgiving to fall in this category.”
But here is the thing… and remember, I am someone who did not really have Shabbat as a kid growing up… this sounds a lot like a regular Shabbos. Family coming together over a meal… maybe overeating… ;)… giving thanks for each other and all that we have… taking time out of the regular chaos, and sitting together… slowing down… and showing humility and appreciation.
This is the key, and something that is really tapping me into both Judaism and Mindfulness… HUMILITY AND APPRECIATION.
Every morning we wake and say Modeh Ani… thanking Hashem for returning our Souls.
We pray multiple times a day, expressing humility, thankfulness and gratitude.
And every week, we gather together at the Shabbos table and do the same… looking back at the week with thanks, and looking forward with the same gratitude, but also an excitement as to where we can go.
As the world seems to be collapsing around us, with bad behavior, hypocrisy, turned cheeks and ignored facts, it is imperative that we hold tightly onto our morals and ethics. Judaism teaches us to ALWAYS DO THE RIGHT THING. While this does not guarantee outside circumstances having negative effects, it does put us and keep us on the path.
We cannot put certain things above the right thing… above people and their protection and safety.
We cannot justify the ends if the means are horrific and against our own Mitzvahs and Laws…
We must look to Hashem, to Torah, to our Rabbis and mentors and teachers…
We must make each and every day count, and fill it with appreciation and gratitude, love and thanks, spoken silently and out loud in prayer, and expressed to our loved ones around us, with thoughts, words, and action… the three garments of the soul.
Jewish wisdom is remarkable. It provides us a blueprint, a guideline and ways to truly live.
So on Thursday, for those gathering together with friends and family, make sure you let the central idea of the holiday truly envelop you… Be humble and thankful… grateful…
Take it all in… breathe it in… the smells of food being prepared… the sounds of children laughing… relatives speaking… the sights and tastes…
Allow your senses and soul to be open.
And then on Friday… on Shabbat… do it all over again. Same with Saturday and Sunday and Monday and every single day…
Make every day Thanksgiving… and always… ALWAYS GIVE THANKS.
To you, our readers… to Ben for being on this journey with me… for sharing and teaching… to my family and friends… to all of the Rabbis and teachers who have opened me up to a world I was always a part of, but knew too little about… and to Hashem, for all I have been given, and all I will be given… Todah Rabah…