I have to admit I have never given much thought to the meaning of Thanksgiving. I have thought of it primarily as an opportunity for folks to get together with their families, which is something that can be the source of all kinds of meaningful stuff. But does the holiday itself have some kind of meaning? Is that meaning rooted in the story that's told about the holiday, like the way the meaning of Passover is deeply rooted in the story of the Israelites' redemption from bondage in Egypt?
The below prayer from Rav Zalman would seem to suggest that the meaning of Thanksgiving is indeed rooted in that traditional story. The prayer is written to be included in the "about the miracles" section of traditional Birkat HaMazon, or 'blessing of the food' that is said after meals. The insertion into the "about the miracles" section (which is where we traditionally make insertions on Hanukah and Purim) in and of itself suggests that what we are thankful for on Thanksgiving has something do to with miracles given to us by the Divine. And the content of the insertion suggests the miracle has something to do with the traditional story about Thanksgiving I was told as a kid where poor settlers were helped by Native Americans.
I wonder, however, do we still tell our kids that story? Is there something in there that might be offensive to Native Americans? Do we really want to uphold that traditional story when we celebrate Thanksgiving, or is it about something else for us now? I'm not sure I'm comfortable with this blessing.
But this year, I'm just glad that tomorrow I will have the opportunity -- God willing -- to see my Mom and my Sister and her kids. I hope you will have the opportunity to be with people you care about, too.
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