Thursday evening, we will sit around a table full of turkey, stuffing, cranberry sauce, and pumpkin pie. Many will continue the tradition of reciting what we are thankful for: family, friends and community. It appears to be one of America’s greatest rituals. As Jews, we can be thankful for our name, in Hebrew, yehudim. We are named after our ancestor Judah, yehudah. The Torah tells when Leah bore a fourth son, she named it Judah, for “this time I will thank God.” The word for thanks, toda, is encompassed in the name of our people.
The Talmud teaches, “The following four have to offer thanks to God. He who crossed the sea in safety, he who completed a journey through the wilderness, he who was liberated from imprisonment, and he who recovered from serious illness.”
On Thanksgiving, we are grateful for those who came to this new world to explore the freedom we have today and for those who allowed this country to be a wilderness of delight. We are also thankful for the captive who found refuge in this land- Ashkenazic Jews, Sephardic Jews, and Jews from Russia, Poland, Iran, and everywhere in between.
Last but not least, on this Thanksgiving week, we pray for recovery. It is often a dark and difficult world- fires, shootings, illness, and loss. Yet, the glimmers of hope and the sparks of light allow us to continue to light those Shabbat candles each week, grateful for the fact that we continue to honor Judah, our name sake, carrying on the banner of gratitude.