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Hodu L’Hashem Ki Tov

11/23/2018 10:33:34 AM

Nov23

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. First, it is the only holiday that, as a rabbi, I don’t have to “work.” 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 over-shadow the commonalities that unite us?

In the Torah portion this week, we read about Jacob & Esau - twin brothers who are so different that it is hard to believe that they come from the same family and the same womb. From the way they dress to their chosen occupations, to their world views - the twins, it seems, could not be more different.  Nevertheless, we read about their coming together. Jacob was so frightened of reuniting with his brother and Esau's potential retribution for the stolen birthright that he prepared for a bloody battle. He split his family into two camps and prayed to God to protect his family.

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 Big Bird 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, 

Rabbi Suson

Tue, January 22 2019 16 Shevat 5779