4 Sons & Sons

A discussion of Pesah/Passover generally and the Hagadah specifically. Please comment and contribute!

Tuesday, November 22, 2005

Pre-Thanksgiving post

In Hebrew, there are two words that translate into English as "freedom", herut and hofesh. R. Jonathan Sacks draws a distinction between these words. Hofesh is the freedom of a libertarian society. With no law, the strong inevitably prey on the weak. Herut recognizes G-d's law and provides for the liberty and safety of all.

Although, I'll be eating turkey with the Saintly Woman and our guests, I'm very uncomfortable with the holiday. Not because of Thanksgiving's Christian origins. I like Halloween. Who am I to talk? It's a much more serious reason.

It's hard to imagine a tragedy on par with the Shoah, but I don't think it's any exaggeration that this country's treatment of it's native population qualifies. That makes it particularly hard to be involved in a holiday that celebrates the cooperation between two peoples without recognizing the fact that one of those nations virtually wiped out the other. Just imagine Germany instituting a holiday trumpeting it's wonderful relationship with its Jewish community throughout history.

In the comments to this post over at the Goblin King, Alan Scott mentions a suggestion that we precede Thanksgiving with a more somber day of reflection. I like that. Maybe even a fast day (and not just so you can stuff more turkey down your gullet the following day) or at least some small gesture.

At the seder, in Avadim hayinu, we sing (although it's not in the original text) "'atah bene horin", "now we are free". This is the freedom of herut, imbued with responsibility. True, this country has been good to us, but we need to look beyond our own communities. Our yom tovim are not merely times of celebration, but of inspiration that are designed to affect our everyday behaviour. If we choose to celebrate Thanksgiving, we need to give it greater meaning than a day off with delicious food. Among its other great work, Mazon works within Native American communities. Every little bit helps. Let us truly become bene horin.


At 5:24 PM, Blogger Mar Gavriel said...

Ha! You linked Alan Scott to the Green Lantern thingy.

At 5:27 PM, Blogger Tam said...

Um, Is that his actual real name? I just assumed that was the reference.

At 10:49 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

i was under the impression that Thanksgiving was designed to be non-sectarian as a national holiday. Whie the Puritan's meals of thanksgiving were clearly Christian, the American holiday wa designed to appeal to people of all religions.

At 11:03 AM, Blogger Tam said...

From the Encyclopædia Britannica :

"The New England colonists were accustomed to regularly celebrating “Thanksgivings,” days of prayer thanking God for blessings such as military victory or the end of a drought. The U.S. Continental Congress proclaimed a national Thanksgiving upon the enactment of the Constitution, for example. Yet after 1798 the new U.S. Congress left Thanksgiving declarations to the states—some objected to the national government's involvement in a religious observance, Southerners were slow to adopt a New England custom, and others took offense over the day's being used to hold partisan speeches and parades. A national Thanksgiving Day seemed more like a lightning rod for controversy than a unifying force.


As the country became more urban and family members began to live farther apart, Thanksgiving became a time to gather together. The holiday moved away from its religious roots to allow immigrants of every background to participate in a common tradition."

It's origins seem to be Christian, but today, it's clearly non-religious for most folks. Thanks for the comment anonymous. I love your work!


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