By Hazzan Barbara Barnett
It’s hard to believe Thanksgiving is right around the corner. Although most of us think of Thanksgiving as the day for watching the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade (a family tradition since I was little girl), football on TV, and a big family feast of turkey, stuffing and pumpkin pie, the very name suggests that the holiday is so much more than a day off (and day before the shopping spree also known as “Black Friday”).
This very American holiday, in many ways, emulates the fall festival of Sukkot, celebrated last month. Some scholars have attributed the beginnings of Thanksgiving to the Pilgrims’ understanding of the Jewish autumn festival of Sukkot: a time for giving thanks to God for the bounty of the harvest.
As Jews, we observe Thanksgiving every day during our daily worship services: Ma’ariv, Shacharit and Mincha. Our liturgy articulates directs us toward gratitude in every service, in numerous prayers.
We give thanks for the extraordinary—the big miracles—in the “Al Hanissim” (for the miracles of Chanukah, Purim, and the State of Israel) section of the Amidah called the “Hoda’ah” (literally, thanksgiving). We start the Hoda’ah with the words “Modim anachnu Lach” (We give thanks to you) and go on to thank God for not only the big miracles, but the daily “small” miracles that surround our lives.
The Birchot Hashachar (morning blessings)—the series of blessings traditionally recited upon waking each morning, and which begin our daily Shacharit service express gratitude to God for the often easily overlooked things: clothing, food, eyesight, freedom, the basic act of awakening less weary than we were when we fell to sleep, and even the simple functioning of our internal organs. These are only a few of the opportunities we have in our worship to offer thanksgiving and make thanks-giving a daily, as well as, a once-a-year event.
There is so much for which I am grateful as we come to our national day of thanks, not the least of which is becoming a full-time part of the North Suburban Beth El family. There are so many in the congregation (staff and congregants) I would like to thank, it would be impossible to name them all. Just know you have my endless gratitude for making this time of transition as easy as possible and welcoming Phil and I into the NSS Beth El community.
In advance, I wish you all a Happy Thanksgiving!