Thanksgiving is as genuine American apple pie. I don't think that any other nation sets aside a dedicated holiday to show such an appreciation for our life. Yet we Jews can take a little credit for influencing the creation of this holiday. It is commonly assumed that the Pilgrims modeled their original Thanksgiving celebration after the holiday of Succot. According to the biblical explanation, Succot was a holiday of Thanksgiving to celebrate the end of agricultural year. There were many celebratory activities, especially in Jerusalem, thanking G-d for the spring, summer and fall crops.
In our modern American Thanksgiving version we also express gratitude for everything in our life, for who we are and what we have. In the Jewish tradition we are actually encouraged to be in an appreciative mode every day of the year. It is our obligation to try to recite 100 blessings of thanksgiving every day, always starting with "Baruch Ata Adonai", Blessed are you Adonai. How is that for an endless daily thanksgiving celebration! These blessings cover all aspects of our life. They range from our smallest daily needs and functions to seeing majestic views, to experiencing new things etc.
I believe that this year's Thanksgiving celebration is even more significant for us. We have just gone through a painful election which has torn us into a deeply divided nation, complete with lower emotions of hate and ill wishes. So deep is the division that in many families, certain topics are still avoided in order to prevent quarrels.
Appreciating what we have is a powerful way for us to begin to heal and come together again as a nation. We as Americans and Jews have so much for which we can be thankful. Whatever our political affiliation, we are and always will be one nation. For the sake of all of us and future generations let us begin working together and start with our own family members and friends. All of us are the guardians of liberty and freedom.
Indeed, things are not perfect and there is much to be done socially and economically and on the world stage in order to keep the United state what it has always been, a Beacon of Hope. But despite the political turmoil, our country is strong and safe and we have the freedom to evaluate our economy and social issues. And as we gather together at our Thanksgiving tables let us also remember and appreciate how many lives have been given so we may even have the privilege of enjoying the Thanksgiving holiday.
Yes, we have much to be thankful for this year. May we continue to be blessed with much to be thankful for every day of our lives. And in doing so, may we Jewish people continue to not only share our blessings with those in need but also follow our teachings that ask us to model respect, understanding and compassion for all.
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