The Power of Gratitude

hero image

When is the Jewish Thanksgiving Day? Does any one holiday play the role in the Jewish religion that Thanksgiving Day plays in the United States of America?

One can certainly argue that everyday is Thanksgiving Day for the observant Jew. After all, every Shemoneh Esrei prayer contains a blessing of thanksgiving. And after each and every meal we include a blessing expressing our gratitude for the food we eat.

But one can also argue that, although every day carries the gratitude theme, there are several days during the year for which gratitude is the major theme. Certainly, Chanukah and Purim qualify as such special holidays, for we incorporate an extra paragraph expressing our thanksgiving in our prayers on those occasions.

In the view of some authorities, however, Passover stands above all other days as the holiday of thanksgiving par excellence. Rabbi Isaac Abarbanel, for example, understands the Paschal sacrifice, the korban Pesach, as a thanksgiving offering. He points that just as the korban todah, the sacrifice offered in the Temple for those who had special occasions to be grateful, had two components. One component was the zevach, the meat of the animal offerings, the other component, were the chalos, or breads, which accompanied the zevach. The Paschal sacrifice too, argues Abarbanel, had an animal component, the meat of the goat or lamb. Additionally, it has a “bread” component,m the “bread of affliction”, the matzo.

Pesach is a holiday in which gratitude is a central theme. We are thankful for our freedom, and thankful for our nation hood. Our thanksgiving is expressed verbally in the Hallel we recite from the first night of the holiday until the very last day. It is expressed symbolically in the matzo we eat and in the items on the Seder plate.

As part of the Rabbi Levi Meier Ph.D. Memorial Lecture presentation at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center (Los Angeles), Rabbi Dr. Tzvi Hersh Weinreb lectures on the power of gratitude: Its relationship to well-being, and its development through prayer and community bonding.

The words of this author reflect his/her own opinions and do not necessarily represent the official position of the Orthodox Union.