Last Friday was a busy one for me. My day started representing the Jewish community at Monrovia’s 56th Annual Community Prayer Breakfast. This annual event brings together not only faith leaders from across the city, along with local elected officials, but also community members as well. What I love most about being asked to participate in events like this is that I have a chance to share a few Jewish teachings and a few prayers. For many, this is the only time that they hear Hebrew. And to say our prayers juxtaposed to those offered by Christian preachers provides context and relevancy to what Judaism believes and teaches.
Following the breakfast, I had a chance to attend my younger daughter’s school Thanksgiving feast, and my day concluded by attending Shabbat services. It was there, reflecting on my week and, in particular, my day, that I realized that the actual concept of thanksgiving is deeply rooted within Judaism.
While Thanksgiving in the US is closely tied to the Pilgrims, family, and a festive meal (and, of course, a day of football), if you step back and think about it in greater depth, Thanksgiving is really about offering thanks for what we have. The day is set aside in the calendar to appreciate the “things” we have. However, in Judaism, we are constantly thanking G-d for everything we get to experience and see. As Jews, while there are prayers that ask for things, we also have blessings that provide us with the opportunity to express our appreciation for all we have. Take a moment and think about that for a moment.
Don’t believe me… here is a list of a few things that we say blessings to G-d for as a way to say thank you: eating, seeing a rainbow, the first rain of the season, waking up, before we read Torah, before we study Torah, hearing the Shofar, and to mark a special occasion. In these and others, we say take a moment to express our gratitude for the ability to do, see, or experience the wonders of our world. Judaism has taught us the importance of expressing our appreciation. In fact, our tradition encourages us to offer at least 100 blessings every single day.
As you gather with your friends and family this Thanksgiving, I hope you will keep this idea in mind and recognize how special our tradition is; we are encouraged to appreciate and acknowledge all we have, and we do it regularly. And as an added resource, check out JewBelong's Thanksgiving Booklet and see a collection of readings, poetry, songs, special Thanksgiving prayers, and more that can add even more meaning to this year's celebration.
On behalf of myself, the Jewish Federations Board of Governors, and the Staff, I hope that you and your family have a wonderful Thanksgiving celebration.