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Hodu L’Hashem Ki Tov

11/24/2017 04:07:58 PM


Rabbi Steven Suson

By now, your belly is probably full of hodu (= turkey) and your heart is filled with hodaya (= prayers of thanksgiving) at the delicious meal and the great company that you shared yesterday. Thanksgiving is one of my favorite holidays for two reasons. It is the only holiday that, as a rabbi, even I get the day off. But most importantly, Thanksgiving is like every American standing up and reciting the Shehecheyanu (prayer of thanksgiving) simultaneously each year. The blessing expresses gratitude to God for having given us life, sustained us, and brought us to this moment of joy. Of course, we express our joy by sleeping late and celebrating some of our shared values.
Freedom. Gratitude. Responsibility. Generosity. Dinner. Network Television.

Why, during the rest of the year, do we allow our differences to create such divide and even threaten to overshadow the commonalities that unite us?

In the Torah portion this week, Jacob flees his hometown of Beersheva to his uncle in Charan. The tragic saga continues of Jacob & Esau - twin brothers who are so different that it is hard to believe that they come from the same womb.  From the way they dress to their chosen occupations, to their world views - the twins, it seems, were opposites in every way. 

Nevertheless, next week, we will read about Jacob’s eventual return and interaction with his brother. Jacob was so frightened of reuniting with Esau, and feared retribution for the stolen birthright. He simultaneously prepared for a bloody battle and prayed that God protect his family. He split his clan into two camps, sent gifts and emissaries, and prayed for peace and guidance.

What happened next is inspiring and emotional.  Esau ran toward his brother, embraced him, kissed him, and they both wept.  The great commentator, Rashi, explains that both brothers realized at that moment that the familial bond that united them was far stronger than the personal differences that kept them apart. They knew they would never get along personally, in fact they promptly parted ways again. Nevertheless, we see a reconciliation between Jacob and Esau.

We live in a world full of differences.  We will never be able to stop enumerating the factors that divide us. I like Thanksgiving because we celebrate our common values by clearing our schedules to spend the day with those to whom we are closest, to help others enjoy a hot and delicious holiday meal, and to give thanks for God’s gifts of Ronald McDonald Floats, Dog Shows, and football. Perhaps if we could hold on to this brotherhood as we discuss our differences, our future would hold more tolerance in the place of prejudice, more reconciliation in the place of segregation, more hugs and tearful embraces instead of bloodshed.

I pray that, like Jacob and Esau, the familial bond that we share this Shabbat, as Americans, Jews, and human beings continues to inform the the way we interact with one another during the rest of the year.

Shabbat Shalom!

Mon, May 25 2020 2 Sivan 5780