THANKSGIVING: Grateful in public


BP Graphic by Ezra Helfand

KORBAN: Like the ancient ‘gratefulness sacrifice,’ Thanksgiving turns inner thankfulness into something shared.

By Mordechai Heller, 10th Grade

Thanksgiving is a time to connect with loved ones close to you, to reflect and be thankful. The Torah provides a very similar sentiment long before our modern time: the korban todah — the Thanksgiving sacrifice.

In a 2019 Youtube video, Rabbi Moshe Scheiner of the Palm Beach Synagogue in Florida explained that this sacrifice was brought when one was feeling especially thankful for God. Along with the sacrifice, 40 loaves of bread were required, and the one who brought the sacrifice needed to eat all of this in a single day! 

This raised the question of “how one is able to consume so much food” — something not uncommon for any of us to wonder at the end of a large thanksgiving meal.

Rabbi Scheiner said rabbis answer that the one who brought the korban todah sacrifice would be compelled to set up a table in Jerusalem and invite others to take part in the thanksgiving sacrifice feast. Settling down to eat it, they would naturally question what blessing or miracle had brought it about, and the one who brought the korban todah would answer “spreading and dignifying the name of God.”

This, he said, is the essence of being thankful as a Jew — not only thanking God privately, but by also declaring appreciation publicly and conveying God’s goodwill. 

American Thanksgiving purveys a similar sentiment. In our lives in America, throughout the whole year there are many aspects of our lives that we are thankful for. We likely reflect on them, but do so more privately. 

However, on Thanksgiving, we come together with friends and family and publicly express our thankfulness — to each other, our existence, and to God. Unlike last year, this Thanksgiving we are given the privilege of seeing and connecting with friends, family, and those that we love in person, and it is important that we seize this opportunity and publicly express all that we are thankful for, especially given all that the world has gone through during this pandemic! I wish you all a happy Thanksgiving and may you all express your thanks publicly together with those who you love!