I’d wager that the vast majority of people celebrating Thanksgiving don’t give much thought to the harvest season or the pilgrims of the past. Most people simply look forward to the long weekend in a cozy atmosphere surrounded by family and friends. Many people stick to the spirit of the day and devote some time talking about what they are grateful for.
I happen to not celebrate Thanksgiving, at least not the conventional way. Growing up, my family never had a Thanksgiving meal together, but I don’t think we missed out much. We had the equivalent of a Thanksgiving the night after, on Shabbat. Plus, we had just exited the holiday-packed month of Tishrei, which is like a Thanksgiving marathon. We ate countless festive meals, celebrated the harvest season and spent the month dedicated to taking stock of everything in our lives. Nonetheless, I don’t begrudge anyone who wants to celebrate another holiday — especially if it affords them more joy and appreciation of life.
However, there is one thing remiss. One thing I feel the need to do that Shabbat and the Jewish holidays do not afford me. I want to express gratitude to the land that I was born in, the land that I grew up in, the country that contributed an untold amount to who I am and where I am now.
Thanks to America, my ancestors had a country to go to that allowed them freedom of religion. A place where they went with hopes and dreams of building a bright future. A place that, given drive and determination, one could be successful in all sorts of ways. A place of bounty. A place of culture. A place of beauty.
In America, I learned the value and practice of freedom, equality and self-determination.
I was very fortunate to grow up in an America that valued G-d, family, and caring for others. Life was very good for me there and I am eternally grateful for all the years I lived there.
The America I lived in celebrated diversity and allowed me to grow and find my way home to Israel.
I was fortunate to make aliyah by choice. I had nothing to run from, only somewhere I needed to run to. Israel was calling me and I had to go.
Many of my family and friends still reside in America.
I must admit that under the current political climate, fraught with instability and discord, I worry about their future.
I hope and pray that, should they stay there, their children should have the life of safety and security that I was blessed to have. It is imperative that Americans be proactive in making that a reality. There is much work needed to be done if America wants to maintain her character and integrity. I am not capable nor do wish to list all the steps necessary to do that, but I do have one suggestion. Keep Thanksgiving alive. Always be aware and grateful for everything in your life.
Always acknowledge and appreciate the good. Focus on the positive and be a giver. Give love, give hope, give warmth, give your smile, and most of all, give thanks.