Thursday, November 20, 2008


Several days ago I received a request for an appropriate reading at a Thanksgiving Day dinner table. With it was an apology for directing the question to a rabbi since "Thanksgiving is a secular holiday." Technically, of course, the questioner was correct. The origin of Thanksgiving is not a sacred text or an ecclesiastical body of religious scholars or saints but rather the government of the United States of America during the administration of Abraham Lincoln.
Yet, it is my firm belief that Thanksgiving is in essence one of the most religious of all holiday celebrations anywhere. Any occasion that highlights the meaning of gratitude in the context of our spiritual lives is ultimately a profound religious opportunity.
Football games and elaborate cuisine aside, I don't think any other holiday in America quite constructs a context in which individuals and families can encounter a sense of gratefulness for the prosperity we enjoy ,as Thanksgiving. Even places of need like food and homeless shelters go out of their way to provide a special festive meal in order to enhance the capacity of everyone to feel thankful and blessed.
So universal a sentiment is gratefulness that no religious faith anywhere on this planet is devoid of a core concept, doctrine or ritual that does not embrace the practice of articulating and acting upon a deep sense of gratefulness to the Giver of life and all things. Secularists who are spiritually inclined recognize too the human need to acknowledge the gift of life in all its manifestations.
Thanksgiving speaks to the stomach, to our taste buds, to our need to be entertained, and to our faith in family. Above all, when we feel thankful even for a passing moment, this occasion invites us to touch our souls as well.
A happy and grateful Thanksgiving to all.

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