The Holiday of Gratitude

In this quiet pause, it's awesome to be able to reflect on the theme of this week's holiday. Thanksgiving isn't celebrated widely in Israel, of course, but it does have a Hebrew name: Chag ha-Hodaya, literally, the Holiday of Gratitude (or thanks or acknowledgement). You might recognize the root word from so many of our Jewish prayers... it's conjugated into forms like "modeh ani" ("I give thanks") or "modim anachnu lach" ("We give thanks to You") or, perhaps most famous of all -- a line repeated during the Hallel service or at a bris -- "hoduladonai ki tov, ki l'olam chasdo" ("Give thanks to Adonai who is good, for God's lovingkindness endures forever.")

Around the Kavana office, things gear up in August and we always expect to be busy until "after the chagim." But then, in October, as soon as the fall holidays are over, we are bustling with launching our programming year, and we look forward to November when we are certain that things will finally settle down. Only, this year, just as the programming year was falling into place and we expected some quieter moments, the Pittsburgh shooting and the election had us scrambling in new directions. Finally this week, we are finding a moment to pause! Rabbi Josh is getting settled back in from his recent site visit to Sixth & I (in Washington DC) together with the other Jewish Emergent Network rabbinic fellows and the Gan and our after-school programs are on vacation this week. Especially with the sun shining in the windows over the past few days (although, we're back to rain today!), it's blissfully quiet around here (and we're getting so much work done, too)!

In this quiet pause, it's awesome to be able to reflect on the theme of this week's holiday. Thanksgiving isn't celebrated widely in Israel, of course, but it does have a Hebrew name: Chag ha-Hodaya, literally, the Holiday of Gratitude (or thanks or acknowledgement). You might recognize the root word from so many of our Jewish prayers... it's conjugated into forms like "modeh ani" ("I give thanks") or "modim anachnu lach" ("We give thanks to You") or, perhaps most famous of all -- a line repeated during the Hallel service or at a bris -- "hoduladonai ki tov, ki l'olam chasdo" ("Give thanks to Adonai who is good, for God's lovingkindness endures forever.")

In a strange quirk, it turns out the the turkey that's commonly eaten on this holiday is also called "hodu." Linguists will tell you that this is because people once (mistakenly) associated the bird with eastern origins... thus its name became "turkey" after the country of Turkey in English, and "hodu" -- short for "tarnegol hodu" (meaning "Indian chicken") -- after India in Hebrew.

This year in particular, we think it can't hurt to think of the ritual food of turkey as itself being associated with gratitude... that way we could ingest more gratitude on the Holiday of Gratitude! After all, our Jewish tradition teaches that it is gratitude -- cultivated in regular doses, for the "miracles" of life both small and large -- that provides us with the resilience and strength we need to continue moving forward.

Wherever you may be this week for Thanksgiving, we wish you some moments of quiet, of reflection, and of gratitude. We are all so very fortunate. And this week, we are feeling particularly grateful for you, the incredible members of our Kavana family!