It feels as if the entire country is entering into the season of holidays. Yet we in the Jewish community have recently completed our major holiday season. The rhythms of the Jewish calendar are different than those of the secular calendar. Sometimes we have to choose which “dance” to do; other times we can do both. Thanksgiving is one of those holidays that Jews celebrate fully with the secular community.
Thanksgiving was originally a religious holiday – a harvest festival in which the Pilgrims thanked God for the many blessings we receive throughout the year, and more particularly for the bountiful harvest. Our most recent major Jewish festival – Sukkot (“Tabernacles,” one of three annual pilgrimage festivals) – is a thanksgiving holiday, perhaps the biblical holiday after which the Pilgrims fashioned their celebration [see Leviticus 23, Deuteronomy 16, and elsewhere].
In any event, there is no limit to giving thanks. We have much to be grateful for, and not only for a bountiful harvest. The Jewish community is grateful to be living in this great nation. The founding principle of religious tolerance – so absent in much of our world – has allowed us to participate fully in our community, to give fully and to receive as well. It is important to pause and give thanks to God and to this “one nation, under God,” a land of “liberty and justice for all.”
Mark Fasman is the rabbi of Temple Emanu-El in Reno.