Is Thanksgiving a Jewish Holiday?

Although Thanksgiving is not a Jewish holiday, it reminds me that every day is an opportunity to give thanks to God for the blessings we receive both materially and spiritually. King David said it this way, “It is good to give thanks to the LORD” (Psalm 92:1).

In this week’s Torah portion of Toldos (Genesis 25:19–28:9), Isaac blesses his sons Yaacov and Esau. The Torah (Genesis 25:27) refers to Yaacov as “a wholesome man, abiding in tents,” which describes him as a person who focused on spiritually matters. Esau is referred to as “a man who knew hunting” because he focused on material gain.

Despite their different natures, Isaac gives his sons almost identical blessings.

Yaacov is blessed with “the dew of the heavens and the richness of the earth” (Genesis 27:28), and Esau is blessed with “the richness of the earth and the dew of the heavens” (Genesis 27:39).

Except for being in reverse order, the blessings appear to be identical. Both brothers receive spiritual blessings, “the dew of heaven” and material blessings, “the richness of the earth.”

By blessing them in this reverse order, Isaac was communicating a valuable lesson.

Although human beings possess a drive for both the material and the spiritual, it is our choice to decide which will be the priority.

Isaac realized that his sons had different natures, and the order of his blessing indicated their priorities.

However, if your priorities are spiritual, use the material earth to serve God and transform the material into spiritual, if you prioritize materialism, remember that it is never too late to change your priority.

Unlike other religions, Judaism believes that there is more than one path to serving God. Giving thanks is a universal act of appreciation and growth everyone should practice.

The Torah instructs us to give thanks for our material and spiritual blessings not only on Thanksgiving but every single day.

Giving thanks is one of the reasons we are celebrating Jews for Judaism’s Gala on December 11th. The Gala is an opportunity to thank our supporters, who enable us to provide free counseling and education services. .

May this Shabbos provide opportunities to meditate and give thanks for the many blessing we have.

Shabbat Shalom,

Rabbi Bentzion Kravitz