When, as Americans, we celebrate Thanksgiving, we shall be observing a holiday inspired by our own Jewish tradition. It was our Festival of Sukkot—our Feast of Ingathering—that the Pilgrims remembered when they thanked God for the freedom of the American soil. The Puritans who loved the Hebrew Scriptures recognized the deep significance of a solemn occasion of thanksgiving for a people who had found new hope far from the tyranny they had left behind in the Old World. In fact, they called America the New Canaan, and used the Exodus of the Children of Israel as a symbol of their own pilgrimage to a land of liberty.
Celebrating the holiday of Thanksgiving is as American as apple pie and as Jewish as Sukkot. And the lesson of Sukkot is that we are never truly independent, but rather interdependent, and simply could not survive physically or emotionally without our faith and without each other. At Thanksgiving we need to emphasize both “thanks” and “giving”. There can be no “thanks” without “giving”. Over the High Holy Days, the members of our congregation have shown what it means to give. We collected over $11,000 for Food Share to help feed the hungry in our community. Temple Sinai should be proud of its response to helping others. The Rabbis taught a meaningful lesson in the Talmud when they wrote: When the Messianic Age finally arrives, all prayers may be forgotten except prayers of thanksgiving.
May we be thankful always, each and every day of our lives, for the goodness that surrounds us, for our nation whose values make life expansive and for the love that we receive from those whose embrace we cherish.