There are those that ask – Is Thanksgiving a Jewish holiday? While its origins as a national holiday in the United States may not have been orchestrated by the rabbis of the Talmud, the ideas of Thanksgiving are very Jewish indeed.
The word for giving – Thanks is Todah, which is related to the word Modeh – to admit.
One is only able to offer thanks for goodness received when one admits to himself and the giver that goodness has been shared. Our sages remark that one who denies the good done for him by other people will eventually deny the good done by G-d. Rav Dessler states that the fundamental character attribute necessary to eventually enjoy the rewards of the World To Come is expressing Thanksgiving.
The rabbis of the Talmud also make an association between the word Todah-thanks and Viduy – confession / repentance. When one sees honestly and correctly the good they enjoy, it is humbling and inspiring to become a better person. We are taught that our father Abraham originally recognized G-d only because he was thankful for the G-d given blessings in the world.
Amidst the financial chaos in our world, there may be many conversations at Thanksgiving tables discussing do we really have what to be thankful for this year?
Our answer is of course. G-d presents good every moment of every day in His world.
It is up to us to recognize it. It is up to us to admit it. It is up to us to us to feel and express gratitude. It is up to us to demonstrate Thanksgiving.
Rabbi Ephraim Epstein