Sign In Forgot Password

Simple Gifts

11/20/2019 10:57:03 AM


Beth Schafer

It is the season of Thanksgiving. This American tradition that began with the coming together of two nations on this soil, reminds us of a sacred message we should reflect on each and every day - to be thankful. Many believe that Thanksgiving was inspired by Sukkot, our fall harvest holiday, because the Puritans, while living in Holland before coming to the New World, lived among Sephardic Jews who observed the festival and were influenced by their Jewish neighbors. 

Sukkot is a festival that takes place outdoors and celebrates the bounty of the earth. The first Thanksgiving meal also took place outdoors and celebrated the partnership of people and earth as the Native Americans taught the European settlers how to grow and harvest. Sukkot is a holiday of hospitality, of welcoming friend and stranger alike into the dwelling place of the sukkah. The Pilgrims welcomed the Wampanoag Native Americans to their table as a gesture of gratitude for helping them survive in a new land. Even the symbol of the cornucopia resembles a shofar.

Judaism is in the DNA of many American traditions and values, and the American spirit is also imbued in the American Jewish experience. There is a Shaker hymn called "Simple Gifts" that is a reflection of just that. It was famously set for orchestra by the Jewish composer, Aaron Copland.

‘Tis the gift to be simple, ’tis the gift to be free
’tis the gift to come down where you ought to be
And when we find ourselves in the place just right
‘Twill be in the valley of love and delight.

This Thanksgiving may we find ourselves in “right places” among people whom we hold dear. May we find simple gifts to be grateful for each and every day, including the fact that we are free as a Jewish people in this blessed place called America.

Shabbat shalom and Happy Thanksgiving,


Sat, July 4 2020 12 Tammuz 5780