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Thanksgiving: A Very Jewish Non-Jewish Holiday

Thanksgiving is one of my favorite holidays. It is one of the few holidays that combine three of my favorite things: great food, family and NO responsibilities for me as rabbi. It is also so familiar, so Jewish. Some thought-provoking scholarship suggests that Thanksgiving is actually an interpretation of our Jewish holy day Sukkot, the fall festival designated to thank God for the bountiful harvest. As American Jews, we should revel in celebration of this American holiday, and infuse it with ahavah (love), ruchaniut (spirituality), tzedakah (giving). Thanking God, after all, is a value we all share. So enjoy these blessings, Thanksgiving Haggadot, and ideas for a meaningful Thanksgiving. Click here to read my complete eLearning Newsletter on Thanksgiving.

To Say Before the Meal: A Prayer for Thanksgiving
As we gather around a table, family and friends, to enjoy the bounty of this Thanksgiving meal, we pause to offer thanks for the blessings we have received. (We read together)

For the expanding grandeur of Creation,
worlds known and unknown, galaxies beyond galaxies,
filling us with awe and challenging our imaginations,
we gratefully give thanks to You
Modim anachnu lach מוֹדִים אֲנַחְנוּ לָךְ

For this fragile planet earth, its times and tides,
its sunsets and seasons,
Modim anachnu lach מוֹדִים אֲנַחְנוּ לָךְ

For the joy of human life, its wonders and surprises,
its hopes and achievements,
Modim anachnu lach מוֹדִים אֲנַחְנוּ לָךְ

For human community, our common past and future hope,
our oneness transcending all separation, our capacity to work
for peace and justice in the midst of hostility and oppression,
Modim anachnu lach מוֹדִים אֲנַחְנוּ לָךְ

For high hopes and noble causes, for faith without fanaticism,
for understanding of views not shared,
Modim anachnu lach מוֹדִים אֲנַחְנוּ לָךְ

For all who have labored and suffered for a fairer world,
who have lived so that others might live in dignity and freedom,
Modim anachnu lach מוֹדִים אֲנַחְנוּ לָךְ

For human liberties and sacred rites:
for opportunities to change and grow, to affirm and choose,
Modim anachnu lach מוֹדִים אֲנַחְנוּ לָךְ

We pray that we may live not by our fears but by our hopes,
Not only by our words but by our deeds.

בָּרוּךְ אַתָּה ייְָ, הַטּוֹב שִׁמְךָ וּלְךָ נָאֶה לְהוֹדוֹת.
Baruch Atah, Adonai, ha’tov shimcha ul’cha na’eh l’hodot
Praised are You, Adonai, Your Name is Goodness, and You are worthy of thanksgiving.

[Click here for other Thanksgiving Table prayer options.]

Beyond Eating: Investing Thanksgiving with Meaning
America’s Table: A Thanksgiving Haggadah. American Jewish Committee writes: In a world too often threatened by differences, Thanksgiving is a day to appreciate how our various backgrounds make America vibrant, while our democratic values unite us and keep America strong. America’s Table: A Thanksgiving Reader tells this story and helps us express gratitude for being part of it. Download AJC’s Thanksgiving Haggadah.

Rabbi Paul Kipnes’ Making Thanksgiving Spiritually Meaningful: 10 Ideas for Your Thanksgiving Table. Rabbi Kipnes writes: From blessings, to Shehecheyanu moments, to yahrzeit candles to learning, Thanksgiving can be a time of Jewish spiritual inspiration. Download Rabbi Kipnes’ Thanksgiving 10 Thanksgiving Ideas.

Rabbi Phyllis Sommers’ Thanksgiving Seder for Families with Young Children. Much like Passover, this is a holiday whose primary ritual centers on a meal. So here’s a short Haggadah for the Thanksgiving meal. Download Thanksgiving Seder.

Rabbi Paul Kipnes’ Blessings for Your Thanksgiving Table. Words to say before you dig into dinner. Download Rabbi Kipnes’ Blessings.
Precious Preschool People: Our Union for Reform Judaism offers Thanksgiving ideas for Precious Little People, explaining: For the Jewish community, Thanksgiving offers a special opportunity to be grateful not only for the bounties and comforts of our lives but especially for the religious freedom we have found in the United States of America. Download URJ’s Thanksgiving Holiday Happenings 2008 and URJ’s Thanksgiving Holiday Happenings 2007.

Social Justice Guide for National Holidays: Our Religious Action Center for Reform Judaism a guide which explores Jewish and Socially Just celebrations of Thanksgiving, as well as Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Day. It also includes a section on the Super Bowl, for good measure. Download RAC’s Social Justice Guide for National Holidays.

Click here to read the complete eLearning with Rabbi Kipnes on Making Thanksgiving Meaningful.

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