Rabbi’s Reflections – Sunday, November 22, 2020
Daily Bread, reading plan by Lars Enarson (https://www.thewatchman.org/)
Sun 22-Nov-2020 6th of Kislev, 5781
Ge 28:10-22 1 Sa 2 Ps 46-47 Mk 5 (Ro 16)
A National Day to Pray and Give Thanks
by Raymond Finney
INTRODUCTION: Next Thursday, November 26, is set aside in the United States as Thanksgiving.
BRIEF HISTORY OF AMERICA’S THANKSGIVING: A Thanksgiving holy day– a day to give thanks for and celebrate the preceding summer’s harvest– is rooted in English traditions, dating from the Protestant Reformation (reign of England’s King Henry VIII). Before the Reformation, the Roman Catholic Church observed nearly one-hundred holidays and fifty-two Sundays each year as religiously significant. Protestant reformers trimmed the 95 Catholic holidays to 27 Protestant holidays. Landing in what is now New England, Puritans slashed the number of religious holidays– canceling the highly popular Christmas and Easter– to special Days of Fasting (to ask for God’s protection and deliverance) and Days of Thanksgiving (to thank God for His protection and deliverance).
Dates important in the evolution of the celebration of America’s Thanksgiving Day include:
● Some trace America’s Thanksgiving tradition to a 1621 celebration at Plymouth, Massachusetts Colony. A good harvest in 1621, bountiful enough to keep the pilgrims from starving during the upcoming harsh winter, was cause for giving thanks to God. The practice of holding a thanksgiving-harvest festival spread throughout New England, but was not regularly (annually) observed until the late 1660s. Thanksgiving Day was first recognized by church leaders, and, then, governments.
● During the American Revolutionary War, the Continental Congress appointed days of thanksgiving each year during the war. The First National Proclamation of Thanksgiving was issued by the Continental Congress in 1777. In 1789, the Congress of the newly created United States of America and her president, George Washington, proclaimed a day of thanksgiving for “the many signal favors of Almighty God.”
●-In 1863, in the middle of the nation’s deadly Civil War, President Abraham Lincoln issued a proclamation of thanksgiving, in which he said in part [original spelling unchanged]: “The year that is drawing towards its close, has been filled with the blessings of fruitful fields and healthful skies. To these bounties, which are so constantly enjoyed that we are prone to forget the source from which they come, others have been added, which are of so extraordinary a nature, that they cannot fail to penetrate and soften even the heart which is habitually insensible to the ever watchful providence of Almighty God. In the midst of a civil war of unequalled magnitude and severity, which has sometimes seemed to foreign States to invite and to provoke their aggression, peace has been preserved with all nations, order has been maintained, the laws have been respected and obeyed, and harmony has prevailed everywhere except in the theatre of military conflict; while that theatre has been greatly contracted by the advancing armies and navies of the Union. Needful diversions of wealth and of strength from the fields of peaceful industry to the national defence, have not arrested the plough, the shuttle, or the ship; the axe had enlarged the borders of our settlements, and the mines, as well of iron and coal as of the precious metals, have yielded even more abundantly than heretofore. Population has steadily increased, notwithstanding the waste that has been made in the camp, the siege and the battle-field; and the country, rejoicing in the consciousness of augmented strength and vigor, is permitted to expect continuance of years, with large increase of freedom. No human counsel hath devised nor hath any mortal hand worked out these great things. They are the gracious gifts of the Most High God, who, while dealing with us in anger for our sins, hath nevertheless remembered mercy.”
In the same year (1863), Lincoln delivered a short, beloved, oft-quoted speech, “The Gettysburg Address.” This address offered thanks for the soldiers who paid the extreme sacrifice for their country. In this address, Lincoln said in part: “Fourscore and seven years ago, our fathers brought forth on this continent a new nation, conceived in Liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal…. We are met on a great battlefield [of the Civil War]… to dedicate a portion of that field… to those who here gave their lives that that nation might live…. The brave men, living and dead, who struggled here, have consecrated [this burial ground], far above our poor power to add or detract…. It is for us the living, rather, to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which those who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced.”
● On December 26, 1941, President Franklin D. Roosevelt signed a joint resolution of Congress to fix officially the last Thursday in November as Thanksgiving Day. Although this date was chosen at least in part as an economic stimulus to boost Christmas sales during the Great Depression, it also called the nation to give thanks to God. Think about this date chosen to give thanks to God. Less than three weeks earlier (December 7, 1941), Japanese military forces had attacked Pearl Harbor; and, the U.S. Congress had declared war on Japan (December 8, 1941) and on Germany and Italy (December 11, 1941). How hard it must have been for parents and grandparents, spouses and sweethearts, siblings, and others to bring themselves to thank God, when their hearts were heavy and their spirits brokenhearted by the looming world war and fear of losing a loved one. How do you give thanks, when you are profoundly brokenhearted?
QUESTION: Should a Believer celebrate Thanksgiving Day? A qualified answer is in order. A Believer should celebrate this annual holiday, which is a beloved part of Americana, but every day of the year should be a day of thanksgiving.
THE NATURAL PERSON, THE SPIRITUAL PERSON: You were born a natural person. If you are saved, you are a reborn person (a spiritual person).
● The natural person: You were a selfish person in your young age, wanting only fulfillment of your infantile/ childish needs. An infant cares only about his/ her comfort and needs, but no other person’s comfort or needs. Before salvation, you may have thought only of yourself. Your concerns were little more than that of an infant. You may have thought only in such terms as: “I want… I need….”
● The spiritual person: After being saved, you should have been reborn as a new person. Read Yeshua’s explanation to Nicodemus about the necessity of being born again (Matthew 3:1-21). As a reborn Believer, you should have become more spiritual. Your selfish needs should have been replaced with concerns about the needs of others. You should have become a disciple of the three commandments taught by Yeshua: (1) love God above all else and with your entire being, (2) love your neighbors as yourself, and (3) love one another– your fellow Believers (Matthew 22:35-40 and John 13:34-35).
When you are convinced you are saved and will enjoy eternal life in Heaven, the cares of the world become less important and you should enjoy the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding (Philippians 4:6-7). This assurance and peace should be enough to cause you to be in constant thanksgiving.
A Believer should always be thankful to God for his/ her many blessings. “Thanks” occurs in approximately 72 verses and “thanksgiving” in approximately 31 verses of the Bible. (The actual number may vary with different translations.)
A born-again Believer should begin and end every day with praise (thanksgiving) to God. Beautiful thanksgiving sentiments are found in Psalm 100: A psalm of thanksgiving. Shout joyfully to Adonai, all the earth! Serve Adonai with gladness. Come before His presence with joyful singing. Know that Adonai, He is God. It is He who has made us, and we are His. We are His people, the sheep of His pasture. Enter His gates with thanksgiving and His courts with praise! Praise Him, bless His Name. For Adonai is good. His lovingkindness endures forever, and His faithfulness to all generations.
WHAT SHOULD A THANKSGIVING DAY CELEBRATION BE? We have lost much of the meaning of Thanksgiving Day. Families are certainly important, and most families enjoy gathering to eat probably the best meal of the year. But, we have forgotten much of the reason for setting aside a day of thanksgiving to God. Praise and expressions of thanks to God may now be overshadowed by football games, parades, shopping, and other secular activities.
WHAT SHOULD TRUE OBSERVANCE OF THANKSGIVING BE? A Believer should go to sleep and awaken, praising and thanking God. A Paul Wilbur song, “Shalom Jerusalem,” contains a beautiful phrase: “When Messiah comes to takes us home, may His praise be found in you.” What a beautiful thought, that the last words you might utter in this life would be a praise for God. Hear Paul Wilbur perform this song at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=z25R4-1VM_M .
Suggestion: Think about the many reasons you have to thank God, possibly including:
● Your birth and life
● Persons (scribes, clerics, and even smugglers) who preserved the Bible for you for many centuries, often at great personal danger and hardship
● The person who loved you enough to share the Gospel message and encourage you to give your life to Yeshua
● Your salvation, with the promise of eternal life in Heaven
● Your extended family– grandparents, parents, brothers/ sisters
● Your immediate family– spouse, children, grandchildren
● Your synagogue family– rabbi, various ministers and leaders, and congregants, all of whom love you and stand ready to help you at any moment
● A Savior who died for your sins, and a God who stands ready to forgive– and forget– your sins
● The indwelling of Adonai in your body to be as close to you as a thought or prayer
● The constant walking beside you by the Ruach HaKodesh– the Paraclete– for counsel and comfort
● The liberty and constitutional guarantees you enjoy as an American, including the First Amendment right to worship as your conscience dictates
● Safety for you and your family, and for persons who guard your safety, including military and law-enforcement personnel
● Your “daily bread” (food), shelter, and other comforts
● The beauty of nature… sunsets, an infant’s smile, kittens, gentle breezes, cooling rains, flowers, singing birds, and far too many to even begin to list
● The assurance that, as wonderful as earth’s nature is, the wonder of New Jerusalem (Heaven) will be far, far greater
● And many, many more. You will never run out of reasons you should praise and thank God!
A Believer should not grumble and complain. A Believer is a child of God, beloved by Him more than he/ she will ever realize in this life. A Believer is a joint heir with Yeshua for the beauty and peace of Heaven (Romans 8:17).
Yes, every day and any hour of any day is a suitable time to rejoice and give thanks. Start today flooding the throne of God with praise! Study Revelation 8:3-4: Another angel came and stood at the altar, holding a golden incense burner. He was given much incense to offer up along with the prayers of all the kedoshim upon the golden altar before the throne. And the smoke of the incense, with the prayers of the kedoshim, rose before God from the angel’s hand. [Kedoshim = “holy ones”] The Apostle John witnessed that prayers of praise and thanksgiving rise to God as a sweet-smelling aroma.
God waits patiently for you. If you love God and are thankful for the many things you have been given, thank and praise Him every day, not just on the fourth Thursday in November. Father God is “in business” today and every day to hear your heart-felt prayers and your offering of thanks.
THIS WEEK’S DAILY PRAYERS FOR PERSECUTED BELIEVERS: Pray for:
** Iraq (threat: Islamic oppression). Read more about Iraq:
** Egypt (threat: Islamic oppression). Read more about Egypt:
** Algeria (threat: Islamic oppression). Read more about Algeria: https://www.opendoorsusa.org/christian-persecution/world-watch-list/algeria/
** Uzbekistan (threat: dictatorial paranoia). Read more about Uzbekistan:
** Myanmar (threat: religious nationalism). Read more about Myanmar: https://www.opendoorsusa.org/christian-persecution/world-watch-list/myanmar/
** Laos (threat: communist and post-communist oppression). Read more about Laos: https://www.opendoorsusa.org/christian-persecution/world-watch-list/laos/
** Vietnam (threat: communist and post-communist oppression). Read more about Vietnam: https://www.opendoorsusa.org/christian-persecution/world-watch-list/vietnam/
Make Thanksgiving Day 2020 a special day. Make this holiday a holy day. Until next Sunday, Shalom and Maranatha.