As we strive to digest from our Thanksgiving endeavors, we wonder why Jews in America celebrate Thanksgiving. Jews already have a holiday in which we see our family and eat a big meal and give thanks—Shabbat (and it’s every week)! So, what about this holiday is Jewish and how do we, as Jews, use it to help repair the world, Tikkun Olam?
Thanksgiving values are synonymous with those of Jewish tradition. It dates back to the first Thanksgiving where the Pilgrims and Native Americans had to work through their commonalities as a means for survival. We are taught these values throughout Jewish history of showing areyvut, community mindedness, and rodef shalom, pursuit of peace.
When we look at the Hebrew translation for “Thank you,” Todah, the root is yadah, or “throw/give.” On Thanksgiving, we are taught to “confess” thanks and show gratitude towards one another. It’s no surprise that hodu means both “give thanks” and “turkey” in Hebrew.
But, let’s take “giving thanks” to a new level and show gratitude, hakarat hatov. Thanking has become a way of showing gratitude—but gratitude can be much more. When we show gratitude, we bring attention to this thanking on many levels. Gratitude could be thanking someone for a meal but could also be feeding the homeless or visiting the sick. Gratitude is more than giving thanks—it’s showing gratitude by being a role model and performing an action and enhancing a behavior.
How will you be giving thanks as we end Thanksgiving and approach the end of the calendar year? Donate food, time, money, or whatever way you can help repair the world, but do so with attention and do so by showing gratitude.
The national day of giving thanks is Tuesday, December 2, 2014 on #givingtuesday. Show gratitude and give thanks for all that Camp Judaea has done for you by donating to the Camp Judaea scholarship fund and giving the memories of Camp Judaea to children who can’t afford them. Remember, whether it be a hug to a loved one, donation to your favorite charity, or random act of chesed, kindness, show gratitude on #givingtuesday and inspire others to do the same.