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Thanksgiving and Hanukkah

November 29, 2013

We celebrated Hanukkah and Thanksgiving at the same time yesterday, and it will not happen again for 80,000 years!  We were trying to figure out how to say Thanksgiving in Hebrew without much luck. We do know that “thank you” is תודה (todah) and “many thanks” is רב תודות (rav todot) or תודה רבה (toda rabah). You can see to todot תודות at the end of line 3 and line 5 in this passage from 2 Chronicles 29:31 referring to the “thank offerings.”

וַיַּעַן יְחִזְקִיָּהוּ וַיֹּאמֶר

עַתָּה מִלֵּאתֶם יֶדְכֶם לַיהוָה,

גֹּשׁוּ וְהָבִיאוּ זְבָחִים וְתוֹדוֹת,

לְבֵית יְהוָה;

וַיָּבִיאוּ הַקָּהָל זְבָחִים וְתוֹדוֹת,

וְכָל-נְדִיב לֵב עֹלוֹת.

καὶ ἀπεκρίθη Εζεκιας καὶ εἶπεν

νῦν ἐπληρώσατε τὰς χεῖρας ὑμῶν κυρίῳ

προσαγάγετε καὶ φέρετε θυσίας καὶ αἰνέσεως

εἰς οἶκον κυρίου

καὶ ἀνήνεγκεν ἡ ἐκκλησία θυσίας καὶ αἰνέσεως

καὶ πᾶς πρόθυμος τῇ καρδίᾳ ὁλοκαυτώσεις

Then Hezekiah said,

“You have now consecrated yourselves to the Lord.

Come near; bring sacrifices and thank offerings

to the house of the Lord.”

And the assembly brought sacrifices and thank offerings,

and all who wereof a willing heart brought burnt offerings.

One thing really shocked me. For North Americans, Thanksgiving usually means giving thanks for the abundance of food and things that we have. But in this blogpost, there is a different Jewish slant. Wouldn’t it be lovely to think of liberty and religious freedom for all, not just for ourselves,

Thanksgiving and Hanukkah share the emphasis on gratitude for life, liberty, family and religious freedom, Zalmanov said.

What Americans call “the first Thanksgiving” was celebrated in 1621 at Plymouth Plantation by the 53 Pilgrims and 90 Native Americans after their first harvest in the New World, said Rabbi Emeritus Michael Stevens, of Temple-Beth El in Munster.

The New England colonists celebrated “thanksgivings” regularly, Stevens said. These days of prayer thanked God for such blessings as a military victory, the end of drought or a good harvest.

The notion of liberality in thanksgiving comes into the passage above. At the end of this passage, the word translated as “willing” is also sometimes translated as “noble” or “liberal.” Let’s have noble hearts.

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3 Comments leave one →
  1. November 30, 2013 10:29 am

    Having been taught that “eucharist” means “thanksgiving”, I’m surprised not to see eucharist in that Septuagint translation of “thank offering”. (But not too surprised, because etymologically that never looked right to me anyway – it looks more like good-gift than thanks-gift.)

    Here is the story of the first Thanksgiving from the perspective of the Wampanoag Indians posted last year on Indian Country Today. The Indians, too, celebrated thanksgivings regularly:

    We give thanks more than once a year in formal ceremony for different season, for the green corn thanksgiving, for the arrival of certain fish species, whales, the first snow, our new year in May—there are so many ceremonies and I think most cultures have similar traditions. It’s not a foreign concept and I think human beings who recognize greater spirit then they would have to say thank you in some formal way.

    So, basically, today the Wampanoag celebrate Thanksgiving the way Americans celebrate it, or celebrate it as Americans?

    Yes, but there’s another element to this that needs to be noted as well. The Puritans believed in Jehovah and they were listening for Jehovah’s directions on a daily basis and trying to figure out what would please their God. So for Americans, for the most part there’s a Christian element to Thanksgiving so formal prayer and some families will go around the table and ask what are you thankful for this year. In Mashpee families we make offerings of tobacco. For traditionalists, we give thanks to our first mother, our human mother, and to Mother Earth. Then, because there’s no real time to it you embrace your thanks in passing them into the tobacco without necessarily speaking out loud, but to actually give your mind and spirit together thankful for so many things… Unfortunately, because we’re trapped in this cash economy and this 9-to-5 [schedule], we can’t spend the normal amount of time on ceremonies, which would last four days for a proper Thanksgiving.

    Many Americans are starting to realize that the traditional story of Thanksgiving is a myth, that covers over violence that was done to the native peoples by the colonizers. I particularly liked Adam Ericksen’s piece about how non-Indian Americans can come to terms with the myth and still celebrate Thanksgiving.

  2. December 1, 2013 3:52 am

    I’m confused — I thought you celebrated Thanksgiving on the second Monday of October!

  3. Suzanne McCarthy permalink*
    December 2, 2013 8:10 pm

    Hi Victoria,

    The Septuagint doesn’t say “thanksgiving”, it says “praise.”

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