Rabbi’s Reflections – Sunday, November 24, 2019
Shavuah Tov *|FNAME|*,

Speaking of Thanksgiving, I would like to thank my friend and mentor Dr. Raymond Finney for another excellent submission presented here.  The RR today will lift you up.

Thanksgiving DAY Should Be Thanksgiving EVERY DAY

Develop An Attitude of Gratitude to Please God, Improve Your Well-Being

In the United States, the fourth Thursday in November– in 2019, November 28– is officially recognized as Thanksgiving Day.

Regional customs vary for this favorite holiday. In the South, a meal of turkey, dressing, sweet potatoes, pecan pie, and other favorite dishes may be featured (and, commonly, eaten in excess). Regardless of the menu, families importantly gather together. More recently, watching televised parades and football games may be the way part of the day is spent.

A BRIEF (PARTIAL) HISTORY OF THANKSGIVING DAY: Pilgrims (Separatist Puritans) sailed from the British Isles to the New World to escape religious discrimination. Landing in the winter of 1620, they founded the Colony of New Plymouth in present-day Massachusetts. Their first winter was brutal. Within a few months of setting sail, approximately half of the small company had died. Survivors owed their lives to the help of friendly Indian neighbors. The first “Thanksgiving” in 1621 was a three-day Pilgrim-Indian hunting party.

The first colonial system was a communist venture, and it soon failed. After private enterprise was re-established, the colony began to thrive. The crops of 1622 were disappointing, but by 1623 the colony became more successful (again with assistance from the local Abenaki and Pawtuxet Indians). On November 29, 1623, a Day of Thanksgiving was set aside. The first Pilgrim Thanksgiving feast did not resemble our Thanksgiving meal, as the Pilgrims ate lobsters, seals, swans, and deer. There were no desserts (no sugar). Vegetables were those that could be grown in Massachusetts and were prepared in the manner of the local Indians.

Thanksgiving holiday was observed in 1619 in the Virginia colony, but this celebration usually takes a back seat to the Plymouth celebration.

Some scholars try to tie the Plymouth colonial Thanksgiving Feast with the Jews’ Sukkot the Pilgrims had observed in England prior to sailing for the New World. There are certain similarities and the Pilgrims may have copied elements from Sukkot. There are differences, though. The Pilgrims only formally thanked God during a plentiful harvest season. (No Thanksgiving was celebrated in 1622 because harvest was poor.) The Jews had a fixed date on their calendar for Sukkot, which they observed every year regardless of the size of the harvest. Also, no Pilgrim family built a sukkah.

Sidetrack (simplified explanation): In ancient Judaism, four classes of people were obligated to thank God through a Korban Todah (thanksgiving offering) – people who recovered from illness; were freed from imprisonment; crossed the sea; or crossed the desert. End sidetrack.

Thanksgiving was sporadically observed in America, usually on local levels, until President George Washington proclaimed the first nationwide thanksgiving celebration in America. He set aside November 26, 1789 as “a day of public thanksgiving and prayer, to be observed by acknowledging with grateful hearts the many and signal favours of Almighty God.”

In 1827, Sarah Josepha Hale, a magazine editor and author of the “Mary Had A Little Lamb” nursery rhyme, launched a campaign to establish a national day of thanksgiving. In 1863 in the midst of the American Civil War, President Abraham Lincoln issued a proclamation to encourage all Americans to ask God to “commend to his tender care all those who have become widows, orphans, mourners or sufferers in the lamentable civil strife” and to “heal the wounds of the nation.” Lincoln scheduled the final Thursday in November for this day of thanksgiving.

In 1939 in the throes of the Great Depression, President Franklin Roosevelt moved the holiday a week earlier (to the third Thursday in November), hoping to increase Christmas shopping season commerce. Roosevelt’s critics called this new day, “Franksgiving.” In 1941, the Day was returned to the fourth Thursday of November, where it has remained to this time.

A THANKSGIVING PSALM: Psalm 100, a hymn of praise and thanksgiving to God, is commonly used in Jewish worship services. This psalm should also be a psalm for every Believer. It reads: (v. 1) Make a joyful shout to the Lord, all you lands! (v. 2) Serve the Lord with gladness; come before His presence with singing. (v. 3) Know that the Lord, He is God; it is He who has made us, and not we ourselves; we are His people and the sheep of His pasture. (v. 4) Enter into His gates with thanksgiving, and into His courts with praise. Be thankful to Him, and bless His name. (v. 5) For the Lord is good; His mercy is everlasting, and His truth endures to all generations.

WHY SHOULD YOU BE THANKFUL? For what things should you be thankful? You should be able to compile a never-ending list of things to thank God and others, but I will mention a few things to jog your memory:

** CREATION: Thank God for His divine plan to create the Universe; for creating an uncountable number of galaxies with stars and planets extending through never-ending space; for intricate atoms, which can combine to form a seemingly endless number of compounds; for remarkable, intricate cells, which can combine and reproduce to form a nearly endless array of plants and animals; for creating your life and caring how you live;….

** LIFE: Thank God in all three Persons for your life and the life of your family; for God’s grace and Yeshua’s sacrifice to give you the Blessed Hope of eternal life; for the constant presence of the Ruach HaKodesh to counsel, comfort, and guide your life; for the words of the Holy Bible, which reveal God’s plan and direction for your life;….

** FAMILY: Thank God for your family and for any children given to you as your heritage (Psalm 127:3-5); for the comforting presence of family in your old age; for your family’s patience in dealing with you as a member of their family (whom they love, even though you may embarrass them from time to time– a personal confession);….

** AMERICA’S FOUNDING: Thank God for the foundational documents that established and still guide our nation– the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution, and the Bill of Rights; for leaders who still fight to preserve and enforce these documents, surely given by God to our nation; for patriot citizens who still get lumps in their throats and stand in respect when the flag passes or the national anthem is sounded;….

** MILITARY SERVICE MEN AND WOMEN: Thank God for the men and women in the military, who have served (veterans), who have paid the ultimate price (sacrificing their lives), and who now serve (active duty) for your freedom; for the star-spangled banner that flies proudly over our nation, rather than flags bearing swastikas, or sickle and hammers, or Communist stars; for a nation that still produces young men and women brave enough to volunteer for military service, even though war may kill, maim, or psychologically wound them, and whose sacrifices permit you and your family to live in freedom;….

Background Note: We must never lose sight of the sacrifice of all men and women who wear our nation’s military uniforms. All suffer. We must never lose sight of the sacrifice of the families who wait at home, not knowing what danger may befall their loved one. All suffer, too. War was summed up well by Korean War veteran and purple heart recipient Howard William Osterkamp: “All gave some; some gave all.” No one comes from a war zone unscathed. Dear God, may we never miss the opportunity to shake the hand of a veteran or an active duty military service person, look him/ her in the eye, and sincerely say: “Thank you for your service to our country. I am free– my family is free– because of patriotic heroes like you.”

** MEN AND WOMEN IN DOMESTIC PROTECTION: Thank God for the men and women who have served and who now serve as police officers for protecting us, even though being targeted for abuse or assassination;….

Background Note: Law-enforcement officers throughout the nation are being insulted (being pelted with cups of water, for example) and assassinated. Even Washington DC politicians (example: recent tweet from Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez) are publicly supporting anti-police “Punch A Cop” protests. We are losing nearly one officer per week through cowardly assassinations. And, many more than this number die by suicide, as they are unable to cope with such a stressful job.

How long will young men and women enter this dangerous, thankless job? What will our society be, if we no longer have police protection or if police refuse to respond to calls in certain high-crime areas? The “thin blue line” is a phrase that refers to the role of police in society as the force which holds back crime and chaos, allowing order and civilization to exist for the rest of us.

As you may thank someone in military uniform for his/ her service, why not also thank a law-enforcement officer in uniform for his/ her service? Fortunately, I have limited contact with police officers, but I thank a law-enforcement officer when I see one. Their faces beam with appreciation, when I thank them.

If you had a job in which you could be shot in the back at any moment and in which you are called all sorts of derogatory names, would you appreciate a kind word of thanksgiving and appreciation? Dear God, may we support and be ever-thankful for the men and women who form the thin blue line between us and those who would destroy our nation through their evil behavior.

** MEN AND WOMEN IN COMMUNITY SERVICE: Thank God for the men and women who have served and who now serve as firefighters and other first responders by working day and night to protect our homes, properties, and lives;….

** NATIONAL FREEDOMS: Thank God for Americans’ freedoms; for protection of rights afforded by the Constitution, including the First Amendment to worship as you wish, and for many other rights; for protection by a strong military; for many fellow countrymen who are also Believers and who believe that “One Nation Under God” is more than a trite motto;….

** FREEDOM TO EXPRESS FAITH: Thank God for a sure Word of truth and faith– God’s Word– given to us through Holy Scriptures; for our place of worship, Shomair Yisrael Synagogue (as we obey Hebrews 10:24-25); for leaders in Rabbi Michael Weiner and others, who share God’s Word with us; for Yeshua’s invitation for us to be one with Him and Father God (John, chapter 17); for religious freedom under the First Amendment that “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech,… or the right of the people peaceably to assemble,….;” for fellow Believers who are willing to help us, when we have need;….

** YOUR TURN: I have given a few things for which you should thank God. There are many, many more things I have not mentioned. For what other things should you thank God?

ONE DAY EACH YEAR IS NOT ENOUGH: The fourth Thursday in November is not enough time to thank God for the many blessings we enjoy. EVERY DAY of the year should be Thanksgiving. Beginning with January 1, we should thank God; continuing into December 31, we should still be thanking God.

GIVING THANKS PLEASES GOD AND IMPROVES YOUR MENTAL HEALTH: Health authorities agree that one key to good health (wellness) is to improve mental health. One way to improve mental health is to develop what has been called an “attitude of gratitude.” If you are thankful to God and others for your daily life, your physical and mental health will likely improve. Consider some quotations from people who believe in this philosophy:

** “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

** “Gratitude is one of the most powerful human emotions. Once expressed, it changes attitude, brightens outlook, and broadens our perspective.” Germany Kent

** “Any day above ground is a good day. Before you complain about anything, be thankful for your life and the things that are still going well.” Germany Kent

** “The most attractive thing about you should have less to do with your face or body and more to do with your attitude and how you treat people.” Germany Kent

** “When life gets hectic and you feel overwhelmed, take a moment to focus on the people and things you are most grateful for. When you have an attitude of gratitude, frustrating troubles will fall by the wayside.” Dana Arcuri

** “Take time daily to reflect on how much you have. It may not be all that you want but remember someone somewhere is dreaming to have what you have.” Germany Kent

** “The same tongue that tastes a cube of sugar when it is placed in a small cup of water and appreciates it is the same tongue that tells the same cube of sugar how tasteless it is when it is placed in a large volume of water.” Ernest Agyemang Yeboah

** “Instead of spending time complaining about your life, use your energy on changing your life.” Jeanette Coron

** “Coming from a place of humility instead of entitlement, and recognizing that you are blessed enough to get the chance to do something, can change everything.” Jeanette Coron

** “Cultivating an attitude of gratitude begins with counting your blessings. In simpler terms, gratitude is expressing thanks for gifts we receive. Genuine gratitude helps us to see the little things in life that are often overlooked, yet so precious.” Dana Arcuri

PRAISE MAY BE THE BEST THANKSGIVING GIFT WE CAN GIVE GOD: May we keep the sentiments expressed in a Paul Wilbur song, “Shalom Jerusalem:” “When Messiah comes || To take us home || May His praise || Be found in you.” What can we give in appreciation to the Creator and Ruler of the Universe? We can give the one thing He chooses not to take for Himself– loving praise freely given to Him by His children. Yes, it may be that giving praise to God for His ever-present gifts to us may be the best form of thanksgiving. Shalom and Maranatha.

Father: We come before Your throne, overwhelmed by Your goodness to us. How can we begin to thank You? We are not eloquent enough to express our appreciation for Your boundless gifts. Acknowledging our inability to articulate adequately words of thanksgiving, we ask that You accept our simple, “Thank You for everything; we love You.” Amen.