What makes Thanksgiving such a special American holiday is its universal theme: thankfulness for blessings in life. The centerpiece of the holiday is the family meal with the turkey symbolic of a bountiful feast. There is something about Thanksgiving that transcends all other American holidays that seem to appeal more as days off. Other holidays focus on certain themes of gratitude for life in this unique and precious land of ours…memories of those who gave their lives, presidents who led us, workers who built this country and leaders who inspired us. Only Thanksgiving comes directly into our homes, with its Seder like emphasis on each family celebrating their unique appreciation for life in the USA.
What makes Thanksgiving uniquely special for the Jewish community is that it is a family holiday that all American families can enjoy and focus on in gratitude for so many blessings, including the freedom to be different.
What a wonderful blessing that B’nai Israel has a long standing tradition of welcoming this special holiday with our friends at St. Paul’s Church, in Benicia, where we will be welcomed this year.
The holiday celebrates our differences that make this country great while transcending those differences in honoring and blessing America’s unique heritage as a nation built on principles that human beings created in God’s image have the right and responsibility to live their truths and learn from one another in contexts that respect and cherish our individual rights.
So while the Jewish community may be out of rhythm when it comes to the winter holidays where we give greater play than is warranted to Chanukah as a response to Christmas, even as we do what we can to honor the Sabbath when the rest of society does so on Sunday, Thanksgiving is the one holiday when we are all in sync.
I look forward to welcoming Thanksgiving with you and with our friends at St. Pauls, on Wednesday evening, November 25, and I also look forward to my opportunity, as leader of the guest community, to give the drash, the teaching, to apply at our Thanksgiving tables the day after.
Having just come out of our major Jewish holiday season, concluded with our 8 day thanksgiving holiday of Sukkot and Simchat Torah, it will be wonderful to count our blessings in the larger context of the only country in western history built on the principles of the Torah, integrating the dignity of humankind with the presence of God in how we make our decisions to cherish life and live the values upon which this country and Judaism in particular are based.