Thoughts and Prayers for Thanksgiving

November 24, 2020

Thoughts and Prayers for Thanksgiving

The Jewish world accommodates a pretty big tent: We pray, study, and celebrate within a framework of established denominations; and our community reflects a wide diversity of beliefs, philosophies and backgrounds. It is a fact of modernity that “Jewish” is expressed in many ways. And further, I would argue that this diversity has contributed to the vibrancy and strength of the Jewish people in the US and around the world. While we often have disagreements, the Jewish world remains united in its commitment to caring for one another, supporting the state of Israel, preserving the memory of the Holocaust, and so much more.

I’m thinking about this as we head into Thanksgiving. In the same way our ‘big tent’ makes the Jewish community stronger, diversity also contributes to the greatness of America. While division and discord have been all-too present and prevalent these past few years, I would like to think that a plurality of Americans, in some way, recognize that our lives are enriched and our country strengthened by the great ‘melting pot’ of cultures, religions, ethnicities and lifestyles that thrive here.

A uniquely American holiday, Thanksgiving has its traditions of turkey, cranberries and pumpkin pie. But you might also have tamales, tikka masala, and turkey polenta at your table. Thanksgiving celebrations in 2020 reflect the growing diversity of America’s citizenry.

As the Jewish world has learned over the centuries, we are stronger when we focus on what unites us more than what divides us. It is said that the Second Temple was destroyed not by the Romans but by the baseless hatred between the different Jewish factions.

Let us pray that America can avoid repeating the mistakes of our ancestors. May this Thanksgiving remind us and our fellow citizens that what unites us must be more powerful than what separates us, and may we take steps toward unity and healing.

And may we count the blessings in our lives, and be grateful.

- Rabbi Judith Beiner, JF&CS Community Chaplain

A Thanksgiving Prayer, by Rabbi Naomi Levy

For the laughter of the children,

For my own life breath,

For the abundance of food on this table,

For the ones who prepared this sumptuous feast,

For the roof over our heads,

The clothes on our backs,

For our health,

And our wealth of blessings,

For this opportunity to celebrate with family and friends,

For the freedom to pray these words

Without fear,

In any language,

In any faith,

In this great country,

Whose landscape is as vast and beautiful as her inhabitants.

Thank You, God, for giving us all these. Amen.

From Talking to God: Personal Prayers for Times of Joy, Sadness, Struggle, and Celebration (Alfred A. Knopf, New York); used with permission of the author, who is the spiritual leader of Nashuva in Los Angeles and also the author of To Begin Again.