Giving Thanks - Rabbi David Spey

Giving thanks is a valued and ancient Jewish value.  At least half of our worship service is designed to help us develop a sense of appreciation for all that we enjoy in life.  From the most concrete of God’s creations, to the most abstract of God’s revelations, our worship experience helps us to recognize the miracles, both great and small, that we encounter on a daily basis.  In fact, the rabbis tell us that without prayers of thanksgiving, our service is incomplete.  Similarly, the American holiday of Thanksgiving has been developed to help us accomplish the same goals.

Coincidently, for the 1st time in history, Chanukah begins on Thanksgiving (the last time that this quirk of the calendar could have occurred, Thanksgiving was not yet an official American holiday).  Chanukah is as well a holiday connected to giving thanks.  This is the holiday in which we thank God for the miracle of the oil lasting eight days.  This holiday celebrates the rededication of our Temple in Jerusalem and our recommitment to our traditional rituals and values.  This holiday celebrates our commitment to giving thanks.  And so, when our heritage of expressing appreciation for the blessings we receive throughout our lives is combined with the opportunity to gather with our families and eat too much, it is no great surprise that the serendipitous quirk of the calendar seems so natural!

Since there is such a strong and vibrant connection between our Jewish tradition of thanks and our contemporary American expression, perhaps further comingle our celebrations.  After lighting our Chanukah Menorahs on our Thanksgiving tables, perhaps we can offer a prayer to bring of thanksgiving to help remind us of what we have to appreciate, and what others, unfortunately, may still lack.

We offer thanks for children who put chocolate fingers everywhere, who like to be tickled, who stomp in puddles and ruin their new pants, who sneak Popsicles before dinner, who erase holes in their math workbooks, who can never find their shoes.

And we pray for those who stare at photographers from behind broken windows, who can’t bound down the street in a new pair of sneakers, who never “counted potatoes,” who are born in places where we wouldn’t be caught dead, who never got to the circus, who live in an X-rated world. 

We offer thanks for children, who bring us sticky kisses and fistfuls of dandelions, who sleep with the dogs and bury goldfish, who hug us in a hurry and forget their lunch money, who cover themselves with Band-Aids and sing off key, who squeeze toothpaste all over the sink, who slurp their soup.

And we pray for those who never get dessert, who have no safe blanket to drag behind them, who watch their parents watch them suffer, who can’t find any bread to steal, who don’t have rooms to clean up, whose pictures aren’t on anybody’s dressers, whose monsters are real.

We offer thanks for children who spend all their allowance before Tuesday, who throw tantrums in the grocery store and pick at their food, who like ghost stories, who shove dirty clothing under the bed, and never rinse out the tub, who get visits from the tooth fairy, who don’t like to be kissed in from of the carpool, who squirm in church or temple and scream on the phone, whose tears sometimes make us laugh, and whose smiles can make us cry.

And we pray for those whose nightmares come in the daytime, who will eat anything, who have never seen a dentist, who aren’t spoiled by anybody, who go to be hungry and cry themselves to sleep, who live and move, but have no being.

We offer thanks and prayers for children who want to be carried and for those who must be…, for those we never give up on for those who don’t get a second chance.  For those we smother and for those who will grab the hand of anybody kind enough to offer it.adapted from “We Are Responsible” by Ina Hughes


Happy Thanksanukah!

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