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an attitude of gratitude

11/24/2021 10:06:37 AM


Rabbi Jeffrey Myers

While much has circulated over the past few years regarding the authentic origins of Thanksgiving, the concept of a Fall harvest festival with a meal to celebrate and offer thanks to God is ancient. In fact, it is called the holiday of Sukkot. There are some who claim that the early pilgrims copied this from the Hebrew Bible. It is easy to get caught up in other matters and forget about the essence of Thanksgiving. It is a uniquely civic holiday in the United States with deeply religious foundations.

I remember as a teenager the annual Thanksgiving Day parade in the community growing up, as I was in the local high school’s marching band. I recall that we also marched for Veteran’s Day and Memorial Day. Real Americana. We would then proceed either to our local high school football field or the neighboring community for the annual football game between two neighbors that, if memory serves me correctly, was one of the oldest continuous Thanksgiving Day high school football games in the state.

Those are indeed pleasant memories growing up, as are the annual family gatherings over a meal. We evolved over time from being in my parent’s home to eventually being the hosts ourselves. As I pondered the menu this year, making certain that foods of comfort are featured, I thought more about thankfulness and how I express it. Perhaps a short list might do.

  • I am thankful that I am alive.
  • I am thankful for my family.
  • I am thankful that I have a roof over my head, clothes on my back, and ample food on the table.
  • I am thankful that we are able to assemble because scientists created an inoculation to combat COVID-19, making it possible for us to gather.

There are far too many people who cannot express thankfulness for some of the above, as they have no roof over their heads, or they wear the same clothing every day, or they have little to eat. They are grateful that there are locations where they can be treated to a Thanksgiving meal if they are able to get there. It is possible to solve these insecurities if we really wanted to, because I think that we have enough smart, successful people who could do so. But we have not. Judaism teaches us about our responsibilities to take care of those less fortunate than us. If we are really thankful, then we must demonstrate it in tangible ways, such as:

  • Donating $5.00 per attendee at your table to a local food pantry (more is ok).
  • Donating one can of food per attendee at your table to a local food pantry.
  • Donating new or gently used clothing.

When we demonstrate that we are thankful, we are on the way towards developing an attitude of gratitude, which cannot be limited to one day per year, but every single day of our lives. Thanksgiving is a good day to start. May we all be thankful, and may those in need be beneficiaries of our thankfulness.

Sun, May 22 2022 21 Iyyar 5782