Every year as it gets closer to Thanksgiving, it seems someone will bring up the topic about whether Jews should celebrate Thanksgiving or not. It is a secular holiday on the one hand, but on the other hand, as the Rabbi of my shul points out each year, being thankful is a concept that is emphasized in Judaism. He points out that the root of the word “Yehudi,” Jew, is “LiHodot,” to thank. A big part of being Jewish is being Makir Tov, recognizing the good things that we have, the good things that others have done for us, and the good things that Hashem has given us, and being thankful.
As a side note, I would hardly call it “celebrating” Thanksgiving as the only thing it entails is eating a meal with turkey, usually with your family. Compared to various complex Jewish rituals that are part of Jewish holidays, this hardly seems like it can be called “celebrating,” but if you want to debate whether to eat turkey or not, go right ahead. I just do what my family does, and we have a traditional Thanksgiving meal with turkey, cranberry sauce, stuffing, the whole thing.
No matter what your minhag is, I think it is apropos to make a list for some of the many things that I am thankful to Hashem for. Hashem has given us so much good, and it is a great chance to recognize that. So, in no particular order, here are some things that I am thankful for:
• My family, both my immediate family and extended, who are kind, thoughtful, loving, and always supportive of my decisions.
• My amazing friends, who are kind, accepting, and who are there for me no matter what. The friends who make me laugh, the friends who are nearby and far away, the friends who I can have long, deep, meaningful conversations with.
• Health: This is something I tend to take for granted more than other things for some reason. It’s so easy for me to forget that it’s a miracle when everything works right. Thank you, Hashem, that I am able to see, hear, smell, move, walk, talk, and generally function well.
• Torah/Being Jewish/Faith in Hashem. Without these my life would feel empty and meaningless. Learning Torah and my relationship with Hashem bring me joy, happiness, and also help me get through the tough times. If I didn’t know that Hashem loves me and created me for a reason and is watching over me, then I would probably have a break down when things get tough.
• Tefillah. It is amazing Hashem gave us the ability to talk to Him and He answers us. The fact that we can do this is such a gift.
• Good food: Have you ever had a cold and not been able to taste food? Hashem created the world that we need to eat to survive. But He didn’t have to make food taste so good! Delicious food is a huge chessed from Hashem and I am quite thankful for yummy food!
• Shabbos. As I get older I appreciate shabbos more and more and more. I thought I appreciated shabbos in college- what a great break from studying and tests and homework! But now that I’m done with college, I find that I appreciate shabbos even more and I would not have thought that was possible!
• Vacation. Enough said.
• Clarity. Whenever I have clarity, I have to take a step back and realize how wonderful it is to not be confused and unsure. Feeling unsettled is like being in the dark, and when the light is turned on, things are absolutely beautiful.
• Running Water. What did they do before there was running water? Anytime you needed water, which is often, it was a whole process. Imagine how much harder it was to do things like, shower, go to the bathroom, laundry, washing dishes.
• Cell Phones. What did people do before cell phones? Being able to communicate with anyone anywhere anytime is definitely something I take for granted.
• Music/iPods/MP3 Players. Music has the power to uplift you like nothing else in the entire world. And iPods- because I remember the days when I had to schlep around a million CDs with me wherever I went if I wanted to listen to more than one CD.
• A perfectly timed message. Have you ever had the experience that someone said the exact right thing to you at the exact right time? You know, when you go, “Wow! I really needed to hear that right now!” I am thankful for the times that Hashem sends me messages that I need to hear, and I get the message.
• Sleep/ mornings/new days. Sleep is one of the things I am thankful for a lot. Not just because it is great to be well rested, but because without sleep we wouldn’t have a break and we’d just keep going and going without any new beginnings. Each day is a new day and a new chance and you don’t have to be who you were the day before, and you can just start new. Sleep is a chance to leave the past in the past and move on.
I am sure I am missing MANY things, and this list could go on forever. So today, on Thanksgiving, I say: Thank you, Hashem, for all of the wonderful things you have given me! Thank you.