A well-known Jewish scholar, Martin Buber, said, “The older we get, the greater becomes our inclination to give thanks, especially heavenward.” I know many of us can identify with this! Our tradition has many prayers of thanks, teaching us that showing gratitude is part of our way of life. One such example is the modim anachnu lach paragraph in the Amidah, when we bend to bow deeply and show reverence. Interestingly enough, the numerical value of the letters of the Hebrew word modim is equivalent to the numerical value of 100, hinting that we are thankful to God with the 100 blessings we are supposed to say each day.
Nearly all Americans celebrate the holiday of Thanksgiving, with all the traveling to be with family and the usual smells and tastes to enjoy together. When I was growing up (in an Orthodox family), we also sang secular songs of Thanksgiving! This holiday does not feel particularly “Jewish,” but since the pilgrims celebrated their good fortune by thanking God for all with which they had been blessed, the original Thanksgiving dinner was also a kind of religious one.
Although our table will NOT be set with any religious artifacts or rituals, the act of sharing prayers and words of thanksgiving can give a Jewish meaning to the gathering. We can make a motzie and share reasons for being grateful. When we do mitzvot of donating food and funds to local charities, helping to feed the poor and the hungry, we are doing tzedakah and tikun olam, charity and repairing the world.
Blessings allow us to pause and give gratitude, and to acknowledge beauty, goodness, and God’s presence in our lives. May we all once again celebrate our gratitude for the many blessings we have, on Thanksgiving.
Until next time –- l’hitra’ot!