Giving Thanks and Thanksgiving

Question

Hi Rabbi. Do observant Jews celebrate Thanksgiving Day? I give thanks to you for taking my question.

3 months

Answers

  1. Most Jews observe Thanksgiving the same way most Americans do. They take the day off from work and use it as a time to gather with their family. In addition, they may offer a special word of thanks to God for what they have, although not as a religious holiday per se.

    Actually, my great-grandmother made a point of celebrating Thanksgiving Day in the States, saying: “This country has been very good to the Jews.” I know many other people – especially immigrants from Europe – who celebrate Thanksgiving for this same reason.

    However, some Jews do not observe it since it is not really a Jewish custom. But — and here’s the twist — they actually observe it every day of the year in a sense, since we are obligated to give thanks to God each and every day!

    Interestingly, Thanksgiving has “Jewish” roots. The Pilgrims based Thanksgiving on the Torah (Bible), in which God commands Jews to celebrate the Harvest Festival. This festival is called Succot, the Festival of Booths, which Jews have been celebrating for more than 3,000 years.

    And, allow me to add a clever comment that someone once told me: The word for “thanks” in Hebrew is “hodu” which also is the modern-Hebrew word for turkey! There is a verse from Psalms that we regularly say during prayers, “Give thanks (hodu) to God, for He is good, for His mercy is forever (Psalms 136).”

    Best wishes from the AskTheRabbi.org Team