And so, once again, it is time for Thanksgiving. You might have thought this holiday was about pilgrims, Indians, and stuffing, but in fact it's roots are much, much more ancient than that. In Psalm 118,
verse 1, we read, "Give thanks to the Lord, for God is good; God's lovingkindness endures forever." Obviously, this line is about giving thanks, i.e. Thanksgiving! However, did you also know that the Hebrew word for 'giving thanks' is 'Hodu,' which ALSO means 'turkey'?? No joke, people. "Hodu L'Adonai Ki Tov" is talking about BOTH giving thanks AND turkey. Feel free to bring that little gem with you to dinner on Thursday night... :-)
While we're on the subject of Thanksgiving, a big part of the holiday involves spending time with family. And coincidentally, this week's Torah portion is all about family. The name of our parasha is Tol'dot, which means 'generations,' and it tells the story of Isaac, his wife, Rebecca, and their two sons, Esau and Jacob. Unfortunately, it's not the most harmonious group, and our Torah portion is filled with deception, lies, yelling, crying, and family members swearing at one another. For some, this ALSO describes Thanksgiving dinner, so once again, a funny little coincidence...
Yet underneath the surface of this story, I think we find an important question; one which we don't always acknowledge, but is often true for us all. What does 'family' mean? We have no control over who gets thrust into a shared gene pool with us, so just like our patriarchs in
Tol'dot, the fact that people are related doesn't guarantee that they will get along. 'Family' should be something we create, not something we complain about to a therapist. Each of us has the ability to form a family of loving, caring, devoted individuals. For some people, that group includes relatives, for others it's friends, and for the lucky ones, it's both. In the Torah, Jacob and Esau aren't able to reconcile their differences, but they each go off and form a family of their own, and each brother finds peace in his own way...
When you sit down for dinner on Thursday night, look at the people sitting around the table. Take a moment to think about what the notion of 'family' means to you, and how you are successfully being an active agent, creating a family of supportive, nurturing, generous, and warm people, in your own life. Don't forget that a big part of the puzzle is looking at yourself, and thinking about how you provide these things for others. When we understand ourselves, and think about 'family' in those proactive terms, then I think we will truly have a successful Thanksgiving filled with "Hodu"... in both senses of the word!
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