Rabbi’s Reflections – Sunday, November 13, 2022
Thanksgiving – Part 1… What People Say
by Dr. Raymond Finney
INTRODUCTION: Later this month (Thursday, November 24), Americans will observe one of this nation’s most cherished holidays– Thanksgiving Day. The Bible has much to say about giving thanks. I plan to present this month a sample of men’s/ women’s quotations and Scriptures to record thoughts about thanksgiving, praise, and gratitude. God’s Word teaches us that we should be grateful for the many things we enjoy in this life. Please take a few minutes to read these RRs and refresh your memory about the need to give thanks to Him who gave us every worthwhile thing. See James (Jacob) 1:16-18: Do not be deceived, my dear brothers and sisters. Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shifting shadow. By His will, He brought us forth by the word of truth, so that we might be a kind of firstfruits of all He created.
A VERY BRIEF HISTORY OF AMERICA’S THANKSGIVING DAY: These reminders about Thanksgiving Day in the United States may be of interest:
● 1621: To mark their successful survival during difficult times, Pilgrim colonists in Plymouth, Massachusetts observe a three-day celebration of thanksgiving to God.
● Mid-1600s: An annual proclamation and celebration of thanks to God by Massachusetts Colony residents becomes a custom.
● 1775: America’s Continental Army celebrates Thanksgiving, as they fight British troops in Boston.
● 1777: Although in the midst of the Revolutionary War, the outcome of which was at that time in doubt, the Continental Congress declares Thanksgiving for all thirteen colonies. General George Washington observes Thanksgiving with his troops in Valley Forge on December 18.
● 1863: Although in the midst of the Civil War, the outcome of which was at that time in doubt, U.S. President Abraham Lincoln establishes the national holiday of Thanksgiving on the last Thursday of November. Abraham Lincoln warns: “We have been recipients of the choicest bounties of Heaven… we have grown in numbers, wealth and power as no other nation has ever grown, but we have forgotten God…. Intoxicated with unbroken success, we have become too self-sufficient to feel the necessity of [God’s] redeeming and preserving grace, too proud to pray to the God that made us.”
● Thanksgiving Day in the United States is observed as a federal holiday on the fourth Thursday of November.
● Incidentally, approximately 46-million turkeys are eaten on America’s Thanksgiving Day, accompanied by 80-million pounds of cranberries. Sold just before the holiday are approximately 214-million pounds of Irish potatoes and 50-million pounds of sweet potatoes. Most Americans consume between 2,500 to 4,500 calories at the Thanksgiving meal (groan!).
WHAT HUMANS SAY ABOUT THANKSGIVING: Humans realize giving thanks serves us well. A sample of quotations about thanksgiving, praise, and gratitude follows:
● “Feeling gratitude and not expressing it is like wrapping a present and not giving it.” – William Arthur Ward
● “We would worry less if we praised more. Thanksgiving is the enemy of discontent and dissatisfaction.” – H. A. Ironside
● “Let us be grateful to people who make us happy; they are the charming gardeners who make our souls blossom.” – Marcel Proust
● “Silent gratitude isn’t very much use to anyone.” – Gertrude Stein
● “Gratitude is riches. Complaint is poverty.” – Doris Day
● “The world has enough beautiful mountains and meadows, spectacular skies and serene lakes. It has enough lush forests, flowered fields, and sandy beaches. It has plenty of stars and the promise of a new sunrise and sunset every day. What the world needs more of is people to appreciate and enjoy it.” – Michael Josephson
● “I may not be where I want to be, but I’m thankful for not being where I used to be.” – Habeeb Akande
● “Not what we say about our blessings, but how we use them, is the true measure of our thanksgiving.” – W.T. Purkiser
● “As we express our gratitude, we must never forget that the highest appreciation is not to utter words, but to live by them.” – John F. Kennedy
● “At times our own light goes out and is rekindled by a spark from another person. Each of us has cause to think with deep gratitude of those who have lighted the flame within us.” – Albert Schweitzer
● “When a person doesn’t have gratitude, something is missing in his or her humanity.” – Elie Wiesel
● “Some people are always grumbling because roses have thorns; I am thankful that thorns have roses.” – Alphonse Karr
● “Appreciation is a wonderful thing: It makes what is excellent in others belong to us as well.” – Voltaire
● “If you are really thankful, what do you do? You share.” – W. Clement Stone
● “When it comes to life, the critical thing is whether you take things for granted or take them with gratitude.” – Gilbert K. Chesterton
● “When I started counting my blessings, my whole life turned around.” – Willie Nelson
● “Gratitude is when memory is stored in the heart and not in the mind.” – Lionel Hampton
● “The thankful receiver bears a plentiful harvest.” – William Blake
● “Thank God every day in which you live.” – Lailah Gifty Akita
● “Those who are not grateful soon begin to complain of everything.” – Thomas Merton
● “Thanksgiving dinners take eighteen hours to prepare. They are consumed in twelve minutes. Half-times take twelve minutes. This is not coincidence.” – Erma Bombeck
● “An optimist is a person who starts a new diet on Thanksgiving Day.” – Irv Kupcinet
● “If opportunity doesn’t knock, build a door.” – Milton Berle
● “The unthankful heart… discovers no mercies; but let the thankful heart sweep through the day and, as the magnet finds the iron, so it will find, in every hour, some heavenly blessings!” – Henry Ward Beecher
● “For flowers that bloom about our feet; || For tender grass, so fresh, so sweet; || For song of bird, and hum of bee; || For all things fair we hear or see, || Father in heaven, we thank Thee!” – Ralph Waldo Emerson
● “Praise God even when you don’t understand what He is doing.” – Henry Jacobsen
● “The Pilgrims made seven times more graves than huts. No Americans have been more impoverished than these who, nevertheless, set aside a day of thanksgiving.” – H.U. Westermayer
● “Thanksgiving was never meant to be shut up in a single day.” – Robert Caspar Lintner
● “God bless us, every one!” – Charles Dickens, (said by Tiny Tim)
● “Thanksgiving– giving thanks in everything-– prepares the way that God might show us His fullest salvation in Christ.” – Ann Voskamp
● “I thank you wholeheartedly because you cannot imagine all the happiness you are giving me.” – Auliq Ice
● “If I have seen farther than others, it is by standing on the shoulders of others.” – Isaac Newton
● “The best and most beautiful things in the world cannot be seen or even touched– they must be felt with the heart.” – Helen Keller
● “Keep your face always toward the sunshine, and shadows will fall behind you.” – Walt Whitman
● “Let your thanksgiving to God be a perpetual praise.” – Lailah Gifty Akita
● “Nothing is impossible. The word itself says, ‘I’m possible!’” – Audrey Hepburn
● “No act of kindness, no matter how small, is ever wasted.” – Aesop
● “Someone is sitting in the shade today because someone [else] planted a tree a long time ago.” – Warren Buffet
● “Don’t judge each day by the harvest you reap but by the seeds you plant.” – Robert Louis Stevenson
● “From David learn to give thanks for everything. Every furrow in the book of Psalms is sown with the seeds of thanksgiving.” – Jeremy Taylor
● “Our rural ancestors, with little blest, || Patient of labor when the end was rest, || Indulged the day that housed their annual grain, || With feasts, and off’rings, and a thankful strain.” – Alexander Pope
● “Love doesn’t make the world go round. Love is what makes the ride worthwhile.” – Franklin P. Jones
● “Express gratitude for the greatness of small things.” – Richie Norton
● “Kindness is one thing you can’t give away. It always comes back.” – George Skolsky
● “We should certainly count our blessings, but we should also make our blessings count.” – Neal A. Maxwell
● “Success is falling nine times and getting up ten.” – Jon Bon Jovi
● “Giving thanks fills you with light and joy so you can shine like the bright star you truly are.” – Amy Leigh Mercree
● “Each day comes bearing its gifts. Untie the ribbon.” – Ann Ruth Schabacker
● “Life is a celebration. Consider everything that makes you happy as a gift from God and say, ‘Thank you.” – Francis Lucille
● “The more thankful that I become the more I realize how pathetically impoverished I was before I became thankful. And I often wonder how impoverished I still am.” – Craig D. Lounsbrough
● “In your darkest hour, give thanks, for in due time, the morning will come. And it will come with a ray of sunshine.” – Michael Bassey Johnson
● “Try to be a rainbow in someone else’s cloud.” – Maya Angelou
● “Don’t forget to thank God when you get what you prayed for.” – Deeksha Arora
● “Showing gratitude is one of the most powerful ways to create abundance. Giving thanks is one of the most beautiful ways to appreciate life.” – Debasish Mridha
● “To be thankful for one thing is infinitely more powerful than to be bitter about a hundred others.” – Craig D. Lounsbrough
● “Thanksgiving: A day to pray and humbly say “I thank thee, God. Life is okay.” – Richelle E. Goodrich
● “Never fear shadows. They simply mean there’s a light shining nearby.” – Ruth E. Renkel
● “It is my hope that despite the gravity of the trials, we will never forget that the privilege to live life always offsets the difficulties involved in the living of it. This is the essence of thanksgiving.” – Craig D. Lounsbrough
● “If you woke up this morning, you have reason to be grateful. If you lie your head on a pillow tonight, you have reason to give thanks. Don’t take a single day for grated. They run out.” – Toni Sorenson
● “Some days are better than others, but every day can be the best day of your life by giving thanks.” – Richie Norton
● “It is impossible to be negative while we are giving thanks.” – Donald Curtis
● “GRATITUDE changes ATTITUDE in an instant.” – Toni Sorenson
● “There’s something about lifting your voice to God, especially in the words of the Psalms. If you have something to be thankful for, it gives shape to your gratefulness. And if you don’t, the song becomes a place into which to pour your overflowing heart. The psalms give voice to your sorrow and pain, and singing them lifts up your heart. It resets your focus on God and gives you hope.” – Sarah Christmyer
● “Here rests in honored glory an American Soldier, Known only to God.” – Inscription on the Tomb of the the Unknown Soldier, Arlington National Cemetery
● “Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free, the wretched refuse of your teeming shore.” – Inscription on the base of the Statue of Liberty, New York City
● “It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us– that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion– that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain, that this nation under God shall have a new birth of freedom, and that government of the people, by the people, for the people shall not perish from the earth.” – Concluding paragraph of Abraham Lincoln’s “Gettysburg Address”
● “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.” – Part of Preamble to the American “Declaration of Independence”
● “Nothing is more honorable than a grateful heart.” – William Wordsworth
● “When you give and carry out acts of kindness, it’s as though something inside your body responds and says, ‘Yes, this is how I ought to feel.'” – Rabbi Harold Kushner
● “The greatest blessings of mankind are within us and within our reach. A wise man is content with his lot, whatever it may be, without wishing for what he has not.” – Seneca
● “It’s a funny thing about life. Once you begin to take note of the things you are grateful for, you begin to lose sight of the things that you lack.” – Germany Kent
● “Enjoy the little things, for one day you may look back and realize they were the big things.” – Robert Brault
● “This is a wonderful day. I’ve never seen this one before.” – Maya Angelou
● “Reflect upon your present blessings, of which every man has plenty; not on your past misfortunes, of which all men have some.” – Charles Dickens
● “The soul that gives thanks can find comfort in everything; the soul that complains can find comfort in nothing.” – Hannah Whitall Smith
● “Piglet noticed that even though he had a Very Small Heart, it could hold a rather large amount of Gratitude.” – A.A. Milne
● “It is not how much we have, but how much we enjoy, that makes happiness.” – Charles Spurgeon
● “No matter what our circumstances, we can find a reason to be thankful.” – David Jeremiah
● “It is one thing to be grateful. It’s another to give thanks. Gratitude is what you feel. Thanksgiving is what you do.” – Tim Keller
● “Happiness isn’t something that depends on our surroundings…. It’s something we make inside ourselves.” – Corrie Ten Boom
● “If you want the rainbow, you gotta put up with the rain.” – Dolly Parton
● “I am grateful for what I am and have. My thanksgiving is perpetual…. O how I laugh when I think of my vague indefinite riches. No run on my bank can drain it for my wealth is not possession but enjoyment.” – Henry David Thoreau
● “Those blessings are sweetest that are won with prayer and worn with thanks.” – Thomas Goodwin
● “Praise God, from whom all blessings flow; || Praise Him, all creatures here below; || Praise Him above, ye heav’nly host; || Praise Father, Son and Holy Ghost. || Amen.” – Thomas Ken, “Doxology” (traditional hymn)
● And, so many, many more quotations!
SIDELIGHT: Psalm 91, a psalm of encouragement and praise, is called “The Soldier’s Prayer.” It has been reported that this psalm was quoted daily by America’s Ninety-first (91st) Brigade during World War I. The psalm reads in part (Psalm 91:1-13): He who dwells in the shelter of Elyon, will abide in the shadow of Shaddai. I will say of Adonai, “He is my refuge and my fortress, my God, in whom I trust. For He will rescue you from the hunter’s trap and from the deadly pestilence. He will cover you with His feathers, and under His wings you will find refuge. His faithfulness is body armor and shield. You will not fear the terror by night, nor the arrow that flies by day, nor the plague that stalks in darkness, nor the scourge that lays waste at noon. A thousand may fall at your side, and ten thousand at your right hand, but it will not come near you. You will only look on with your eyes and see the wicked paid back. For you have made Elyon your dwelling, even Adonai, who is my refuge, so no evil will befall you nor any plague come near your tent. For He will give His angels charge over you, to guard you in all your ways. Upon their hands they will lift you up, lest you strike your foot against a stone. You will tread upon the lion and cobra, trample the young lion and serpent.
After one of the bloodiest battles of the war, this brigade suffered no fatality, whereas other units in the same battle– units which did not recite/ pray Psalm 91– sustained up to ninety (90) percent casualties. The United States may soon be at war. Only God can keep this nation from harm– our politicians cannot or will not protect us. Keep Psalm 91 in mind, if you need to pray for Providential protection and favor. Also remember: An American Believer’s home is not in the United States of America. No, a Believer’s home is in New Jerusalem, or Heaven (John 14:1-3): [Yeshua said] “Do not let your heart be troubled. Trust in God; trust also in Me. In My Father’s house there are many dwelling places. If it were not so, would I have told you that I am going to prepare a place for you? If I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and take you to Myself, so that where I am you may also be.” END sidelight.
THE MOST IMPORTANT QUOTATIONS: In this RR, I have included quotations about thanksgiving, gratitude, and praise from a number of famous and not-so-famous persons. What they have said is of no importance to your eternal life. Only how you feel about God’s many blessings and gifts given to you is important. Yeshua taught us the importance of our thoughts and words (Matthew 12:36-37): [Yeshua said] “But I tell you that on the Day of Judgment, men will give account for every careless word they speak. For by your words you will be justified, and by your words you will be condemned.”
What do you say and feel about giving thanks to Creator God for all of the many blessings He has given to you and your family? In this season of Thanksgiving, would it be appropriate for you to give Him praise and thanksgiving? Would you not thank a restaurant server who brings you a glass of water? Is it not more important to thank Adonai for your creation, your life, His loving grace toward you, and His provision of eternal life for you? Is it not also important to thank Yeshua for His death on Golgotha’s cross as the perfect, vicarious sacrifice to redeem you from the death you deserve due to your sins? Is it not important to thank your family for, well, just being your family? (If you are like me, the family has had to endure much just claiming you as a family member.)
Polls show that faith is dying throughout the world. See: polls Christians are reluctant to express faith at DuckDuckGo for a sample of polls that confirm this waning enthusiasm for spreading the Gospel.
The United States at one time was the leading source in modern times to send missionaries throughout the world. The Tanakh states that no one can receive faith without a “preacher” (Isaiah 52:7). The Apostle Paul affirmed the importance of someone going to people and proclaiming the Word (Romans 10:12-15): For there is no distinction between Jew and Greek, for the same Lord is Lord of all– richly generous to all who call on Him. For “Everyone who calls upon the name of Adonai shall be saved.” How then shall they call on the One in whom they have not trusted? And how shall they trust in the One they have not heard of? And how shall they hear without someone proclaiming? And how shall they proclaim unless they are sent? As it is written, “How beautiful are the feet of those who proclaim good news of good things!”
But, Americans and other nationalities are failing to honor Yeshua’s Great Commission (Matthew 28:19-20) to spread the Gospel and make disciples (learners) of all nations. Many of us Believers are like those congregants in the Congregation at Ephesus (Revelation 2:4-5): [Yeshua said] “But this I have against you, that you have forsaken your first love. Remember then from where you have fallen. Repent and do the deeds you did at first. If not, I will come to you and remove your menorah from its place– unless you repent.” When most people are saved, they are “on fire” for the Lord. Over time, that fire may dwindle to smoldering embers and even become extinguished. Giving frequent praise to the Almighty is one way to rekindle the blaze of love for the God in Three Persons.
Why are congregants and congregations failing God? Why is the spread of the Good News to the lost waning? I believe it is clearly because many Believers are timid and afraid to stand up for their faith. Paul boldly proclaimed his willingness to declare and share his faith (Romans 1:14-17): I have an obligation to both Greeks and barbarians, to both the wise and the foolish. So I am eager to proclaim the Good News also to you who are in Rome. For I am not ashamed of the Good News, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who trusts– to the Jew first and also to the Greek. In it the righteousness of God is revealed, from trust to trust. As it is written, “But the righteous shall live by emunah.” [Hebrew emunah = English “faith”] A well-known question is appropriate, here: If you were indicted to stand trial for being a Believer, would there be enough evidence to convict you?
There are many reasons to acknowledge the Divine before others, including (Matthew 10:32-33): [Yeshua said] “Therefore whoever acknowledges Me before men, I will also acknowledge him before My Father who is in heaven. But whoever denies Me before men, I will also deny him before My Father who is in heaven.”
It is easy to praise God now, especially as we live in the Bible Belt. If your life extends into the Tribulation, you may be martyred by beheading, if you express love for Adonai or Yeshua. For example, see the Fifth Seal Judgment (Revelation 6:9): When the Lamb [Yeshua] opened the fifth seal, I [John] saw under the altar the souls of those slaughtered for the sake of the word of God and for the witness they had.
Adonai and Yeshua are ready to hear your prayer now, if you have anything to say to them. Adonai and Yeshua will surely be pleased to hear your giving of thanks or praise on Thanksgiving Day or any other day of the year, as praise pleases God (Psalm 22:4): Yet You [God] are holy, enthroned on the praises of Israel.
I have rambled more than usual in today’s RR. You may ask, What do praise and thanksgiving have to do with faith? The author of Hebrews explained a little (Hebrews 11:1-6): Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of realities not seen. For by it the elders received commendation. By faith we understand that the universe was created by the word of God, so that what is seen did not come from anything visible. By faith Abel offered God a better sacrifice than Cain. Through faith he was commended as righteous when God approved of his gifts. And through faith he still speaks, although he is dead. By faith Enoch was taken so as not to see death, and he was not found because God took him. For before he was taken, he was commended as pleasing to God. Now without faith it is impossible to please God. For the one who comes to God must believe that He exists and that He is a rewarder of those who seek Him.
Is it surprising that God appreciates the love of His children? For readers who are parents, recall a sweet moment when a little daughter or son brings her/ his parent a dandelion blossom picked from the yard, hugs the parent, and says, “I love you, mommy/ daddy.” The wilted, somewhat crushed dandelion has no monetary value, but the the small child’s sentiment is priceless. Sincere love and thanksgiving for Father God have no monetary value, but the sentiment is priceless. And, in God’s economy of judgment, such acts may be eternally rewarded in some manner (Ephesians 6:7-8): Serve with a positive attitude, as to the Lord and not to men– knowing that whatever good each one does, this he will receive back from the Lord,….
In today’s RR, I included some quotations from men and women (what we say) about thanksgiving. In next Sunday’s RR, I will quote some Scriptures (what God says) about thanksgiving. Until then, Shalom and Maranatha.
Daily Bread, reading plan by Lars Enarson (https://www.thewatchman.org/)
Sun 13-Nov-2022 19th of Cheshvan, 5783
Ge 23:1-16 Jdg 5 Ps 31 Mt 22 (Ro 2)