In his book “40 Things You Can Do to Save the Jewish People”, Joel Lurie Grishaver says we should say Kiddush and Hamotzi on Thanksgiving.
“It is important to treat Thanksgiving as a Jewish ritual meal and thereby blend Jewish and American values into a single expression. Thanksgiving has always had its own rituals. … [W]e had never thought to make it Jewish — we had never thought to remember that when the Pilgrims were gathering that first fall harvest in their new land, they went back to the Bible and found their own way of bringing the Sukkot ritual alive. Thanksgiving is nothing more than a Pilgrim version of a creative Sukkot celebration — add the popcorn and cranberries, take out the lulav and etrog, and you get the picture. The moment I figured out that Thanksgiving wasn’t just an American holiday, my world changed. From then on, I’ve made Kiddush before eating turkey. Kiddush adds another dynamic — it shows not only a melding of food, but of spirit.”
Jews and Pilgrims share in the story from bondage to liberation. In journeying to America, the Pilgrims were fleeing religious oppression in their homeland, just as the Israelites fled from enslavement in Egypt by Pharoah. America was the Promised Land for the Pilgrims in the very same way Israel is the Promised land for the Jews. The story told in the book of Exodus belongs to the first Americans as well as the Jews.
We are undeniably blessed to be Jewish and American, and can freely participate as both. Our American Flag stands alongside of the Israeli flag in our synagogue sanctuaries, our liturgy includes a prayer for the leaders of our government, and we live as citizens by following the ‘laws of the land’ alongside Halacha, Jewish law.
Thanksgiving presents a wonderful opportunity to celebrate our Jewish and American selves. Kiddush, Motzi and Bircat haMazon are the motherhood and apple pie of any Jewish holiday meal. Perhaps they’ll find their place at your Thanksgiving Table.
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