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An Attitude of Gratitude

11/07/2021 04:01:14 PM

Nov7

Rabbi Eric Berk

Among my colleagues and friends in the Rabbinate, the weeks following the buildup and preparation for the month of Tishrei’s very busy holiday season (including but not limited to: Rosh Hashanah, Yom Kippur, Sukkot, and Simchat Torah) are a welcome – and even sacred – pause until the next holiday, Chanukkah. Yet isn’t there another holiday we celebrate before the festive lighting of the Chanukah Menorah for eight nights? Yes… Thanksgiving!

You might be thinking, “But that’s not a Jewish holiday!” And you would be correct, of course. And at the same time it isn’t just its themes that are thoroughly Jewish! Certainly it is a secular holiday but what could be more Jewish than gathering with family, friends, and loved ones to collectively and individually give thanks and express gratitude? Oh yes, all while eating good food!
It might also interest you to know that the first Jew to step foot on the continent was likely Joachim Gans who sailed to America as part of a scientific expedition organized by Sir Walter Raleigh in 1584. While highly unlikely that there were any Jews at the first Thanksgiving, a Jewish man did arrive on a ship called the Abigail in 1621, the year after the Pilgrims had arrived from England; his name: Elias Legardo. There are some historians who believe this man to be the first Jew to settle in North America! (To read more about this, please visit: https://www.haaretz.com/jewish/.premium-1624-the-first-jew-to-settle-in-n-america-1.5307829 )
Nevertheless, Thanksgiving does indeed have strong Jewish roots. The Pilgrims based Thanksgiving on the Torah’s commandment to commemorate and celebrate the harvest on the holiday known as… Sukkot, which we Jews have been celebrating for several thousand years and as recently as several weeks ago!

As we gather with loved ones to celebrate Thanksgiving, let us remember and remind ourselves of who and what we have in our lives. Perhaps you might even consider informing those waiting to eat Turkey of the Jewish origins of Thanksgiving! And if you want to take that even further: inside this month’s Temple Times is an activity page created by AJWS, American Jewish World Service, which offers questions and conversation prompts for your Thanksgiving Table (and/or Shabbat Dinner Table).

Shira and I wish you and yours a happy and gratitude-filled Thanksgiving!

Mon, November 29 2021 25 Kislev 5782