Friday, November 18, 2005

Chag Ha-Hoda-ah

The Thanksgiving Feast is almost upon us. Turkey, stuffing, cranberries, and pumpkin pie – mmmmm! You can almost taste it, can’t you??

Thanksgiving is a uniquely American family holiday that can have a special Jewish twist to it. (Of course I'm going to look for the Jewish slant...)

Most families get together for the traditional turkey dinner. Though the story of the pilgrims and their plentiful harvest that was followed by a celebratory feast with their Indian neighbours is part of American folklore, we tend to leave the story behind once we’ve graduated elementary school. It is not recalled year-after-year at the dinner table the way we retell the story of the Exodus during the Passover seder.

We have the model of storytelling with which generations of our people have taught and renewed our values and commitments. Maybe we could duplicate that model during our annual Thanksgiving meal. Many of us probably take a moment to recognize those things for which we are thankful. Why not take some time and recall the good and bad in American history? We can remember the suffering and displacement of the indigenous people as well as highlight the refuge that our country has offered to so many people.

Thanksgiving Day provides a wonderful opportunity for a living Haggadah (‘telling’), an opportunity to take stock of our country and give thanks for its many blessings and for the opportunity to work for and create change.

As we celebrate and give thanks for the freedom granted to all who have reached these shores, we think of the beautiful words written many years ago by the young Jewish poetess, Emma Lazarus. These words can be found on the base of the Statue of Liberty:

"The New Colossus” (1883)

Not like the brazen giant of Greek fame;
With conquering limbs astride from land to land,
Here at our sea-washed sunset gates shall stand
A mighty woman with a torch, whose flame
Is the imprisoned lightning, and her name
Mother of Exiles. From her beacon-hand
Glows world-wide welcome; her mild eyes command
The air-bridged harbor that twin cities frame.
“Keep ancient lands, your storied pomp!” cries she
With silent lips.
“Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddles masses yearning to breath free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”

May your Thanksgiving be filled with meaning, warmth, and gratitude!