Thanksgiving is a special time. We all heard the story about the pilgrims almost starving, and how they were helped by the natives and at the end they all shared in a thanksgiving dinner... well, that's invented - the story, I mean. Traditionally, in every culture, there are celebrations for the harvest, at which God (or the Gods, or the Spirits) are thanked for making the harvest possible. This is rooted in a time when whether the harvest was good or bad could mean - literally - that the soceity lived or starved. Thanking the power-that-be was a ceremony intended to secure their continuing favor.
Jewish tradition preserved that in Sukkot, when the first fruits (Bikurim) were offered at the Temple. European Culture had its own versions of the harvest Festival, which was brought to America by the colonists and eventually metamorphosed into what we know today as "Thanksgiving"
Having said all that, since the Holiday was instituted, the idea changed further. These days, we get together with Family and Friends to thank God for all that we received in the prior year.
So now to business - This is 2020, the year of COVID, associated economic downturn, one of the most polarized political campaigns in living memory, Iranian work to breakthrough on a Nuclear weapon, social and racial violence in America, rise in Antisemitism, etc. Did I leave anything out?
So what am I grateful for? I'm grateful, first of all, that I'm still here and still healthy. I'm grateful that most of my friends and my family are OK. I'm grateful for all the first-response workers who are helping others. I'm grateful that I live - in spite of all - in the most free of all societies, where disagreeing with those in power does not mean jail or worse. I'm grateful I can still help others by donating my time and my money. I'm grateful that the breakthrough with a vaccine is shining bright like a light at the end of the tunnel. I'm grateful for the technological advances which allow me to stay in touch with my loved ones. I'm grateful for LIFE.
So this coming Thursday, as I zoom with my family and friends, I will say one of the most beautiful prayers in my tradition: Blessed are You God, King of the Universe, who gave us life, who allowed to survive and to reach this day.
BARUCH ATA ADONAY, ELOHEINU MELECH HAOLAM, SHEECHEYANU, VEKYMANU, VEIGIYANU LAZMAN HAZE
STAY SAFE - STAY HEALTHY - STAY CONNECTED