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Giving Thanks

11/26/2014 01:22:42 PM


Shalom Chaverim,
I hope everyone reading this is home safe and warm, having survived the weather challenges of the busiest travel day of the year. Thanksgiving, the first American holiday going back to Pilgrim days, is a national treasure. When William Bradford called for a special day in 1621 to celebrate the bountiful harvest of the first corn crop (Sound familiar? Think about it in the sukka next year!) he had no idea he would be creating a model for family values in American life. Abraham Lincoln signed it into law in 1863, and despite the commercial attempts to turn the day from a day of reflection on our good fortune to a day of anticipation of materialistic conquests, we still have an opportunity to sit with our loved ones and acknowledge the source of our bounty.
The Jewish people celebrate thanksgiving a minimum of once a week, sitting down on Shabbat and expressing gratitude to our Creator for delivering us from slavery to freedom. In fact the very words "Jewish People" (in HebrewYehudim יהודים) mean "those that will thank"! Is it a coincidence that our Torah reading this week tells us about the birth of Jacob and Leah's fourth son, whom Leah names Yehuda (I will thank)? And, the ubiquitous bird served up on just about every table is called in HebrewTarnegol Hodu. Hodu means India, as many thought that the New World bird came from India (remember Columbus, the East Indies etc..) But, Hodu also means "Give Thanks"! "Hodu L'Ado-Shem Ki Tov"!
In reality we Yehudim celebrate thanksgiving every day. In our Amidah, recited several times a day, we say "Modimanachnu lach-we offer thanks to you". But, that is only the tip of the iceberg. We thank our creator continuously throughout the day, before and after eating, performing rituals, even after taking care of our most basic bodily functions. It's no wonder that the gematria (numerical value)of the word modim מודים is 100, which is the number of times we should try to thank our Creator every day.
We all know about Birkat Hamazon, a Torah mitzvah obligating us to thank G!d after satiating ourselves with a meal over bread, based on the verse V'achalta v'savata u'vayrachta et Hashem Elokecha, you will eat and be satisfied, and thank G!d.... But, how often do busy people, aside from Shabbat and holidays, have an opportunity to have a meal like that.
In recognition of that, our sages instituted the practice of saying very short blessings (less than 10 words!) beforepartaking of our physical needs. Unlike animals, we can take the must mundane activity and elevate it.
In fact, taking literally a second or two to express our gratitude before eating or drinking, or after using the facilities can change your entire spiritual life almost overnight! Gratitude is the mindset that enables us to rise up against the perils of the anti spiritual, materialistic lifestyle that is continually and aggressively marketed to us, celebrated on screen and played out in the schoolyard and workplace. 
It is with great pleasure that we announce a synagogue wide effort to inspire and educate our members of all ages and backgrounds to seize the moment, and develop a mindful gratitude that can be expressed throughout the day.
Our talented youth directors Binyomin and Naomi have already started teaching the children the words to the traditional blessings, and we encourage all the adults as well. 
To make this into a fun process we will be having a game show/ contest, the first Beit Chaverim Bracha Bee (BCBB) to be held on December 21 at our community wide Hanuka party/brunch for families, empty nesters, seniors and singles. We will be passing out booklets in shul to our youth, and asking them to learn them with their parents. (the BCBB is for all ages!) learn the berachot/blessings. Meanwhile, click here to get started.
Watch this space and your inbox for more info on this fun, intergenerational activity.
This week we will celebrate the Bar Mitzvah of Sam Parks- Mazel Tov to Sam and the entire Parks family. Join us Friday night at 5:30PM, and Sat morning at 9AM.
We will have services Thursday and Friday morning at 8:30AM, and a co-ed all ages touch football game (The Turkey Bowl) is scheduled for Thursday morning, immediately after services. Snow or shine...
Wishing every one a Happy Yom Hodu, and an even happier Shabbat! 
Rabbi Greg
Wed, March 29 2023 7 Nisan 5783