Shabbat Evening Service
From the desk of Rabbi David Lyon
Thanksgiving is around the corner. By now, the flood waters have surely receded, but the difficulty of repairing and rebuilding homes and lives continues. For Houstonians, it’s difficult to believe that Thanksgiving is so close after first feeling like we’d never make it. That’s why this Thanksgiving is even more important. Since August, we’ve learned the meaning of gratitude when first-responders came to our rescue, when volunteers helped us at home, and when some semblance of safety and hope was restored. Now, at our Thanksgiving tables or wherever we might be celebrating the holiday, we’ll raise our glasses and give thanks for very real and tangible reasons: a roof, walls, furniture, family, friends, community, and improved well-being.
Notwithstanding all that we’ve shared, this Thanksgiving will be unique to your family. Perhaps loved ones are gone; their earthly days have ended. On Thanksgiving, their memories will be gathered with words of gratitude about the life they lived and their legacy that still abides among us. But, others have joined you. There are new babies, new sons/daughters-in-law, and new friends. Our tables always have room for one more chair and one more person to fill it. Some families will be together in the hospital or where a family member is recuperating. Thanksgiving doesn’t happen only around the dining room table.
So, before the Turkey is carved and eaten, please take time to share words of thanksgiving that speak to you. Let guests share what’s in their hearts. Or, perhaps you might find meaning in one of the texts below. These citations are from original sources and from an anthology of Jewish quotations. Take a look. You’ll recognize many of them. Share them if you wish.
“It is good to give thanks to God.” Psalm 92.2
“Be not like those who honor their gods in prosperity and curse them in adversity. In pleasure or pain, give thanks!” Akiba, Mekilta to Exodus 20.20
“Lord, I thank You for the goodness of growth, I thank you for the slice of bread and the prayerful mood.” Ben Amittai.
“Who directed the first prayer of thanksgiving to God? A woman, Leah, when she cried out in the fullness of joy, ‘Now again will I praise God!’”
“If a Jew breaks a leg, he thanks God he did not break both legs; if he breaks both, he thanks God he did not break his neck.” A Yiddish Proverb
“As long as the soul is within me, I will give thanks unto You, O Lord, my God and God of my fathers.” Talmud, Berachot 60b; Union Prayerbook Book
From my family to yours and from Congregation Beth Israel to you, Happy Thanksgiving.