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Stuffing Thanksgiving with Abundant Thanks

Gathering together for Thanksgiving, we take time to give thanks for the abundance spread out before us on the table. Our lives, even the most complex ones, contain so much blessing that our tradition – American and Jewish – guides us to speak about those blessings before we gobble up the grub.

Add one of these rituals to your Thanksgiving:

1. Post It Thanksgiving

When guests arrive, provide each guest with a pen and enough post-it notes (stickies)  equal to the total number of guests. Ask them to put the name of one different guest at the top of each post-it notes, and to write one sentence describing why you are thankful for that person (or the positive qualities of that person). Before dinner starts, have guests place the appropriate post it note near the plate of the corresponding guest.

2. Compose a Prayer Together

Begin by saying, “Modim anachnu lach, We thank you Source of Life, for so much.” Then, going around the table, invite each person share a sentence or two, always beginning with that same phrase. [Enjoy other ideas on composing a Thanksgiving prayer or use one of these traditional prayers of thanks.]

3. Adapt Traditional Jewish Blessings

Light Candles: Light candles at your table. There is no blessing for Thanksgiving candles, which means you get to make your own. Start out with, Baruch Atah Adonai, Elohaynu Melech Ha’olam… (Blessed are You, Adonai our God, Guide of the Universe, whom we thank for …) Then finish the sentence as you see fit. As you light your candles, invite others at your table to make their own blessings, using the same formula.

Challah/Bread and Wine: Have challah (or delicious bread) and wine or grape juice at your table, and say the blessings for them. Wine: Use the blessing formula above plus: …boray p’ri hagafen (who brings forth fruit of the vine). Challah/bread: Use the blessing formula above plus: …hamotzi lechem min ha’aretz (who brings forth bread from the earth).

4. Make it a Shehecheyanu Moment

Thanksgiving is a great time to say shehechayanu (the blessing for thanking God for bringing us to this special moment). As we teach in our book, Jewish Spiritual Parenting: Wisdom, Activities, Rituals and Prayers for Raising Children with Spiritual Balance and Emotional Wholeness (Jewish Lights Publishing), “We say Shehecheyanu whenever something new happens, like the birth of a baby or beginning to learn a new skill. Given the Jewish penchant for finding blessings in each moment of life, this prayer is also recited for those occurrences that happen for the first time in a given year, like the first night of Chanukah or the first time we sit in a sukkah [or on Thanksgiving]. And on birthdays.” Learn more about nurturing gratitude in your family.

Use the above formula plus: …shehechayanu, v’kiyimanu, v’higianu lazman hazeh (who has kept us alive, sustained us, and enabled us to reach this moment). Sing along with this G-dcast video.

Make Yours a Spiritual Thanksgiving

More ideas:

10 Ideas for a Spiritual Thanksgiving

7 Reasons Why Thanksgiving is Deeply Spiritual

Thanksgiving: A Very Jewish Non-Jewish Holiday

Thanksgiving Seder for Families with Small Children (by Rabbi Phyllis Sommer)

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