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What Is Jewish About Thanksgiving? Part 2

November 16, 2018


Although there is certainly an immediate connection to Jewish practice and what we physically do around our Thanksgiving table, it runs much deeper than the beautiful turkey, green bean casserole, and sweet potato pie. The name itself, Thanksgiving, is a quintessential concept in Judaism. THANKS and GIVING.

These are words we constantly try to instill in our children’s vocabulary. The GIVING piece is sometimes a bit more tangible for my children and even myself. We can GIVE Tzedakah. We can give money to help a cause. We can cook a meal to give to someone who is sick. We can give our time by caring for our friend’s puppy when a neighbor is grieving over a loss.

THANKS is a little more intangible. It is one thing we often have to remind ourselves and our kids to say intentionally (and ideally one day without prompting). We say thank you to the waiter, to the teacher, the barber, and the grocery store clerk. I often say thank you to my kids after they complete a task that I didn’t have to remind the to do (putting laundry away, taking their plates up to the sink, getting ready for school on time).

Over the last few weeks my thank yous have been much more thoughtful. The day after the shooting in Pittsburg, I walked into Temple Emanuel. I was thankful that I was not fearful about going there. I was thankful to see vibrant Judaism everywhere around me. I was thankful to see staff and parents and kids who took pride in their Jewish roots. I was thankful that I received a call from my non-Jewish neighbor who asked how our community was holding up. Then I woke up again to hear about yet another shooting in Thousand Oaks, just a few miles from where I grew up. I am thankful that I am alive, that I can send my kids to school to learn and grow and play and work out challenges through words. I am thankful that my home is filled with the smells of each holiday. I am thankful that I am surrounded by a community that cares for one another.

Rick Recht wrote a song for his son, Kobi’s Lullaby, and in it he mentioned the many things he is thankful for. It is very similar to the prayers we say on any given morning and are found at the beginning of the siddur. It is these thank yous that I hope I don’t think about only on Thanksgiving. These are the same thank yous that I hope I can help my kids to see each moment of their lives as well even when they think things are falling apart around them.

Thank you God for the earth and sea

thank you God for the trees

and the air I breathe

and thank you God for me

When I open my eyes

to the new daylight

before I rise and start my day I give thanks for the music and love in my life

for the freedom I have to say

thank you God for my family

thank you God for my friends

thank you God for the earth and sea

thank you God for the trees and the air I breathe

and thank you G-d for me

thank you God for my hope

thank you God for my heart

thank you God for the strength to know wrong from right thank you God for the faith I have in myself

and thank you God for me

Rich Recht Koby’s Lullaby


What is Jewish about Thanksgiving? Everything. Even more so this year when we may have our doubts about the amount of good around us. This is the time to really recognize that Judaism embraces THANKS and GIVING. This is when I need to recognize that we are trying to raise our kids with the hope that they will know how to give and know how to receive things to be thankful for. But on a more practical level, I am so very thankful for a spouse who cooks the most amazing Thanksgiving meal filled with love, family, friends, and prayer for all things good in the years to come.

Read part one here

Categories:Babies | Couples | Kids | Tots

Bethany Friedlander moved with her husband and three children to Colorado in 2011. She has a B.A. in Near Eastern and Judaic Studies from Brandeis University and a MEd in Administration. She has worked in education and the Jewish community since college and played in both her whole life. Bethany is one of the Community Organizers for MazelTogether.

Additional posts written by Bethany Friedlander
Newish, Jewish, and Finding A Community
What Is Jewish About Thanksgiving? Part 1
Sharing Hanukkah in the Classroom

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