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What is the Jewish view on Thanksgiving?

by Rabbi Tzvi Shapiro

  

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Question:


I am wondering what is the approach of Judaism to the observance of Thanksgiving holiday. Is it observed or recognized; if yes why, if no why?

Thanks


Answer:


Thanksgiving can be divided into three parts:


The idea. The day. The celebration.


The Idea:


Giving thanks is a very Jewish idea, as a matter of fact, as Jews we give thanks to G-d every day as soon as we wake up, right before we go to bed, and at least a hundred times in total.1


The Idea of thanks-giving is thus supported and celebrated by Judaism.


The Day:


Thanksgiving Day as a national American Holiday, is just that: a National American Holiday. As Jews we ought to commend America as a nation for deciding out of the goodness of its own heart to dedicate one day to give (or highlight) thanks to G-d. At the same time, as Jews there is no reason to limit our own thanks to one day, or to have an American chosen day represent the Jewish idea of thanks.


The Day of thanksgiving should be recognized and categorized as a noble American Holiday; Judaism doesn’t think it needs to be officially endorsed or adopted by Jewish institutions.


The Celebration:


There are two ways to give thanks to someone. A) Give him something you like, or you think he likes. B) Give him something he asked for. The American Thanksgiving gives thanks to G-d through the former. The Jewish idea of giving thanks to G-d is the latter. So if you feel the need to apply the adage “when in Rome do like the Romans” and thus celebrate Thanksgiving precisely the way our fellow citizens do, make sure it is a Kosher meal, and remember to recite the proper blessings. Additionally, don’t let the festivities of Thursday night’s dinner take away from your enthusiasm and celebration of the Friday night and Shabbat meals.


The Celebration of Thanksgiving is a marvelous human gesture. Judaism hopes you will also give thanks befitting of a Divine request.

Footnotes

  • 1. Literally. There is an obligation for a Jew to make at least 100 blessings a day.

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COMMENTS

Thanksgiving

Posted by: Avi Morris, Brooklyn, NY on Nov 26, 2008

I have been "frum" since the late 1970's (I am now 61.) I don't think that Thanksgiving should be regarded as something alien, and I don't think that it should be categorized as giving HaShem something that we think He would like, "as it were," as contrasted with something that He asks of us. HaShem wants us to give thanks for what He gives us, including living in America, easily the most pleasant part of Golus. I think that this is the "ikker" of Thanksgiving. I think that this makes Thanksgiving part of one of the Taryag Mitzvos, of being grateful to HaSHem for what He has given us.

With no immodesty intended, I considermyself widely read in international affairs and history. With the exception of Eretz Israel, there is nowheres else I would rather live than here in the USA. We are well off in terms of "goshmius," and the Yetzer HaRa is no stronger here than it is anywheres else. Thanksgiving is indeed something for which we can thank HaShem. Thank you.

Editor's Comment

"being grateful to HaSHem for what He has given us" is indeed a Mitzvah (as mentioned in the article). And yes, we ought to be very thankful to G-d for giving us America, and very thankful to America for allowing us to worship G-d. When the author speaks of something "categorized as giving HaShem something that we think He would like, "as it were," as contrasted with something that He asks of us" he is referring to the specific expression of thanks through the custom of eating trukey. That is an Ameican custom, not a Mitzvah.

Turkey Day

Posted by: Liebe, Jerusalem, Israel on Nov 26, 2008

First of all I want to express my thanks and admiration for the EMES (truth) of Rabbi Shapiro's thoughtful and thought-provoking answer to this question.

Second: interesting that the modern Hebrew word for "turkey" is HODU, which is one of the Biblical Hebrew words for "thanks" as in "Hodu l'Hashem ki tov (Give thanks to G-d for He is good)".%0


Jews and Thanksgiving

Posted by: Sylvia Becker, Atlanta, GA on Nov 27, 2008

I

I am a Jew who lives in America

I am an American who is a Jew

My husband enlisted in WWII at 17 yrs of age.

His immigrant father was proud to sign his permit to do so.

We fly an American flag in front of our home.

We are proud, observant Jews.

Oh yes, we give thanks on Thanksgiving for this wonderful country in which we live.

I strongly disagree with your answer to this question


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