Monday, December 5, 2011

Thanksgiving holiday mirrors Jewish Family celebration and a song about Israel

Arrogance Blocks Correction

The Torah ideal is for us to have a positive self-image, while at the same time keep a distance from arrogance.

Think of a way that arrogance might prevent you from seeing your faults or mistakes. In order to overcome our faults and shortcomings, we first have to recognize them!

Love Yehuda

Thanksgiving holiday mirrors Jewish family celebrations
By Joel Rosenblum
Tue Nov 22 2011 9:47 PM

While November is a quiet month for Jewish holidays, it does include a holiday of great importance to Americans, and one that gives us Jews a great opportunity for celebration: Thanksgiving.

It is said that Thanksgiving was modeled on our holiday of Sukkot, which is our own fall biblical harvest festival.

And Sukkot means booths, or enclosures, intended to be a place for coming together. We get some credit here. The Pilgrims were inspired by the stories of the ancient Israelites, and these colonists thought of America as their New Zion. It fits. We know that Sukkot celebrates two kinds of gatherings. There's the gathering of the harvest and thankfulness for a plentiful growing season — that's the physical part. And then there is the gathering of the people.

Judaism is a homey religion. We have our seders and our Hanukkah recipes. Passover, Succoth, Shavout, Hanukkah, Purim and so on … the Jewish calendar is full of these celebratory occasions.

Holidays are structured ways to reinforce values. We adhere to that prayer we chant, the part that goes, "When Thou sittest in Thy house...," meaning we know God is with us wherever we are.

In ancient days, the synagogue found a powerful auxiliary in the home. Back then, when the Israelites strictly observed the sabbath, the dietary laws were part of the holiness code; so this would hallow every Jewish home. The synagogue was a temple on a small scale and the Jewish home, a synagogue in miniature.

As Jews, Thanksgiving also gives us the opportunity to celebrate with people whom we otherwise might not be able to. So Thanksgiving is a festival already quite Jewish in its celebration.

Thanksgiving also shares many similarities with Passover. The family gathers around the table for a festive meal to relive the exodus of the Hebrew slaves from Egypt. Similarly, the holiday of Thanksgiving commemorates the exodus of another group, the Pilgrims, from their European homeland. And they were seeking religious freedom as well.

Like the Pilgrims, we all share the story of how our own family arrived in this country. For more than 350 years, the Jewish emigrants have found refuge in an amazing land of opportunity. We have built on these shores one of the strongest Jewish communities in history, and we have much to be thankful for.

When most people imagine the first Thanksgiving, they think of the Pilgrims sharing a hearty banquet with Native Americans.

While it is true the American colonists invited the Native Americans to celebrate their first harvest in the New World, the event did not spark the Thanksgiving tradition that we know today.

In fact, although the occasion was called Thanksgiving, the Pilgrims did not even celebrate it the following year. What we think of as the first Thanksgiving was actually quite different from our modern holiday.

The initial feast was held in 1621, and the Pilgrims shared it with the Native Americans because the locals had taught the colonists to plant crops and hunt wild game. Without the native-born, the settlers may not have survived the harsh winter and been able to proclaim their first plentiful harvest in the New World.

I have always loved the example of how we have a blessing for everything, as expressed in the play, "Fiddler on the Roof," when the village of Anatevka's rabbi is asked if there is even a blessing for the wicked and anti-Semitic czar.

The rabbi replies: "May the Lord bless and keep the czar ... far from Anatevka!" Not exactly a prayer of thanksgiving, but funny nonetheless.

Joel Rosenblum lives in The Villages.

A Song about Israel

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