The writer is grateful for her family. Pictured from left, Leanne, Kylie, Adam, Alexa and Dean Cohen. Courtesy Alexa Cohen
Thanksgiving is one day when we are able to decompress. Parents do not have to go to work and kids receive a much-needed break from school. Stress levels plummet and we are able to spend the holiday simply being grateful for what we have. Thanksgiving is a national holiday, almost 200 years old, that is celebrated by Americans on the fourth Thursday of November. It is filled with traditions and memories that last a lifetime.
The holiday appeals to everyone, including the Jewish people. Jews can bake their kosher turkey and parve stuffing and gather around the table and sing prayers of thanks, such as the words of Psalms 100 and 118. Unlike Christmas, Thanksgiving allows all to rejoice and celebrate with their own customs. The main theme of Thanksgiving is appreciation and this theme does not conflict with Jewish beliefs. If anything, it goes hand in hand with our traditions. A common theme in Judaism is giving thanks to God every day for all that we have, and even for what we don’t have, similar to the concept behind Thanksgiving.
We thank Hashem in our prayers every morning and every night. We wake up and we say “Modeh Ani,” thanking Hashem for another day of life. We thank God for our health, freedom, food, religion and family in prayers such as “Mi Shebeirach,” Psalm 100 and the blessings of the morning prayers. These prayers not only allow us to give thanks, but they allow us to realize for ourselves how much we have to be thankful for. In Judaism, we are not to feel sorry for ourselves, no matter how little we have, because it is a blessing just to be alive.
The Hebrew term for gratitude is hakarat hatov which literally means “recognizing the good.” When we give thanks, especially on Thanksgiving, we are recognizing the good in our lives. Everyone has something to be grateful for, they just have to open their eyes to see it. And if someone thinks that their only blessing is life, then that blessing is far more than many people receive, and it is to be appreciated. But one is never limited to the blessing of life because we always have the blessings of nature, beauty and individuality. I have so much to feel thankful for on Thanksgiving such as my family, my friends, my health and my happiness. I am also extremely thankful for my ability to be able to do what I love which is go to school, study and play tennis. Thanksgiving is a time when I choose to reflect on all the gifts God has given to me, and I feel it is the perfect day for everyone else to do the same.
So it is up to you on Thanksgiving to decide what to be thankful for because there is so much in life to cherish. As soon as we stop desiring more, we will become satisfied with what we have and our lives will gain meaning. Spend this Thanksgiving being grateful for all that life has to offer. For one day a year, do not desire or long for more, but find satisfaction in what you already have. After all according to the Talmud, the person who is rich is the one who is happy with his or her lot.