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Judi's Journal

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2010 Thanksgiving message: A holiday that appeals to all

By Judi Siegal

The other day I went to buy a little decoration for a Thanksgiving package I was bringing to a friend. To my surprise, (and maybe I shouldn’t have been) there were no Thanksgiving stickers or ornaments left. I was vaguely referred to the 70 percent off display which only had a few shopworn turkeys, some baskets and a worn out sign that read, “Give thanks,” aptly made in China, of course.

I am always disappointed to see Thanksgiving glossed over while its “rival” Christmas, because of its great commercial value, takes center stage. Thanksgiving is a holiday that appeals to all, regards of religious faith. It is a beautiful holiday, rich in history, grounded in thankfulness.

In the Jewish tradition, thankfulness is something that is expressed everyday. From waking up to lying down at night, Jews are supposed to recite 100 blessings a day. When it comes to a meal, Jews have specific blessings that are said that reflect their gratitude for not only the meal, but for other things as well. In the blessing over bread and in the Grace after the Meals, Jews acknowledge that God is the provider of sustenance. There is also expressed gratitude for the land of Israel and Jerusalem, Jewish culture and tradition and the hope that we can end poverty and hunger.

When bread is served at a meal, the Motzi is said. This simple blessing thanks God for bringing forth bread from the earth. Now, we all know, you just can’t go out to your backyard and pull a Pepperidge Farm loaf out of the ground. What the blessing is telling us is that God is the force that provides the wherewithal to produce bread. The Creator has provided us with the means to make bread; the earth in which the wheat grows as well as the climatic conditions for it to survive. Without this life-sustaining force, there would be no wheat.

The bracha, also implies that we should be grateful to those who produce our food, from the farmer who grows the wheat to the mill, which produces the flour, to the baker that bakes and forms the loaf. All these hard-working people have a hand in the simple, daily loaf of bread.

The blessing also reminds us of those who have little or no food to eat. In an act called Tikun Olam, repairing the world, Jews are exhorted to share with others, to bring about an end to poverty and hunger.

The holiday of Thanksgiving, in my opinion, helps us all in fulfilling the Hebrew blessing over bread. We acknowledge our reverence for God or whatever spiritual deity we rely on by sitting down at our tables and saying “Thank you, for your providence.” We give thanks that we, in this land of plenty, can go to a store and purchase food without waiting in lines (except at the check out!) or be issued rations based on our race or creed. We give thanks that although these are tough economic times, we still have food on our tables which we are willing to share with others that are in need.

The beautiful words of the Grace after Meals summarizes it all: “You provide all the food that comes to us,

Guiding and nourishing our lives.

Now we hope and pray,

For a wondrous and great day

Where no one in our world

Will lack bread or food to eat.

We will work to help bring that time

When all who hunger will eat and be filled,

Everyone will know that yours is the power

Sustaining all life and doing good for all.

We bless you now Eternal One for feeding everything.” (Translated by Burt Jacobson, Reconstructionist Press: 2010)

May we all be privileged to sit down at our Thanksgiving tables in the true spirit of thankfulness. May we share our bounty with others, even as we share our faiths and traditions. And may we all work for a time when none will go hungry for want of a loaf of bread. Happy Thanksgiving!