Kosher Gobbling (Thanksgiving 2017)
Hi Rabbi. Do observant Jews celebrate Thanksgiving Day? I “thank you” in advance for taking my question!
Most American Jews observe Thanksgiving the same way most Americans do. They take the day off from work and use it as a time to gather with their family. In addition, they may offer a special word of thanks to God for what they have, although not as a religious holiday per se.
Actually, my great-grandmother made a point of celebrating Thanksgiving Day in the States, saying: “This country has been very good to the Jews”. I know many other people – especially immigrants from Europe – who celebrate Thanksgiving for this same reason.
However, some Jews do not observe it since it is not really a Jewish custom. But they actually observe it every day of the year in a sense, since we are obligated to give thanks to God each and every day.
This particular year — 2017 — I personally would suggest “observing” a specific rule around the dinner table while speaking with family and friends. Don’t talk politics! Not only because it might lead to “fights” due to the current divisive political atmosphere, there will certainly be “forbidden speech” as defined by Jewish Law — such as slander and gossip. So I suggest “talking turkey” instead!
Interestingly, Thanksgiving has “Jewish” roots. The Pilgrims based Thanksgiving on the Torah (Bible), in which God commands Jews to celebrate the Harvest Festival. This festival is called Succot, the Festival of Booths, which Jews have been celebrating for more than 3,000 years.
Also, “coincidentally” there is a linguistic connection in Hebrew between “turkey” and “thanks”. The modern-Hebrew word for turkey — hodu” — is identical to the Biblical Hebrew for “thanks”! A verse from Psalms that we say during daily prayers is: “Give thanks (Hodu) to God, for He is good, for His mercy is forever.” (Psalm 136)