What is the Jewish view on Thanksgiving?
by Rabbi Tzvi Shapiro
I am wondering what is the approach of Judaism to the observance of Thanksgiving holiday. Is it observed or recognized; if yes why, if no why?
Thanksgiving can be divided into three parts:
The idea. The day. The celebration.
Giving thanks is a very Jewish idea, as a matter of fact, as Jews we give thanks to G-d every day as soon as we wake up, right before we go to bed, and at least a hundred times in between.1
The Idea of thanks-giving is thus supported and celebrated by Judaism.
Thanksgiving Day as a national American Holiday, is just that: a National American Holiday. As Jews we ought to commend America as a nation for deciding out of the goodness of its own heart to dedicate one day to give (or highlight) thanks to G-d. At the same time, as Jews there is no reason to limit our own thanks to one day, or to have an American chosen day represent the Jewish idea of thanks.
The Day of thanksgiving should be recognized and categorized as a noble American Holiday; Judaism doesn’t think it needs to be officially endorsed or adopted by Jewish institutions.
There are two ways to give thanks to someone. A) Give him something you like, or you think he likes. B) Give him something he asked for. The American Thanksgiving gives thanks to G-d through the former. The Jewish idea of giving thanks to G-d is the latter. So if you feel the need to apply the adage “when in Rome do like the Romans” and thus celebrate Thanksgiving precisely the way our fellow citizens do, make sure it is a Kosher meal, and remember to recite the proper blessings. Additionally, don’t let the festivities of Thursday night’s dinner take away from your enthusiasm and celebration of the Friday night and Shabbat meals.
The Celebration of Thanksgiving is a marvelous human gesture. Judaism hopes you will also give thanks befitting of a Divine request.
* 1. Literally. There is an obligation for a Jew to make at least 100 blessings a day.