Thanksgiving Exemplifies the Best of America

November 25, 2019

Thanksgiving Exemplifies the Best of America

I like to think that Thanksgiving exemplifies the best of America. From wherever we came, whether we are 1st, 2nd or 3rd generation Americans, whatever our national origins, everyone in America celebrates Thanksgiving.

You might be surprised to learn that that we Jews have a unique link to Thanksgiving. When the Pilgrims sat down to celebrate their first fall harvest in their new land, they turned to the teachings in the Torah (their Old Testament) and read of the Feast of Tabernacles (our Sukkot). They reflected on how their exodus from England in search of freedom paralleled the story of the Israelites leaving Egypt in search of a new land. Thanksgiving was patterned after Sukkot by the Pilgrims. Like Jews who suffered great trials in their wanderings through the desert, the Pilgrim’s journey to America was fraught with losses. Yet the Jews, and the Pilgrims had unshakable faith which carried them through their hardships. And when each group came together to rejoice, they gave thanks for their good fortune, for all that they had. The Thanksgiving holiday itself was inspired by the struggles of our people.

There is an additional meaning in the fact that Thanksgiving falls between Sukkot and Hanukkah. On Sukkot, we give thanks to G-d for our redemption from slavery and a bountiful harvest. On Hanukkah, we celebrate religious freedom. Thanksgiving incorporates both, celebrating the triumph of belief over persecution, and undeniable expressions of gratitude for freedoms and abundance.

And because America is a melting pot, we are invited to put our own national/ethnic spin on the Thanksgiving meal. Ethnic foods such as tamales, kimchi, chopped liver and dal can be found on tables across the country.

At Thanksgiving, all Americans celebrate the freedoms we hold dear, express our gratitude for all that we have, and how we have all contributed to the greatness of America.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Rabbi Judith Beiner
Chaplain, JF&CS of Atlanta