|Volunteers distributing food packages during the pandemic (WSJ)|
That God has been very good to us should be evident to the vast majority of us that live here. We do indeed have a a lot to be grateful for. To God and to the pioneers, founders, and people of this great land of ours - the United States of America.
How fortunate are we to be living here at a time of peace and prosperity. Free to practice our Judaism as we see fit, in all of its various forms - whether Chasidic, Charedi, Centrist, or Modern Orthodox. A nation founded on religious freedom for all. A nation that is defined by its Chesed. There is so much of it going around as people all over the country are volunteering to help feed those who are less fortunate. Which has increased exponentially because the pandemic has caused so many people to lose their jobs.
I wish there were not so much controversy about celebrating this day. But there is. Even though no one forbids celebrating Thanksgiving, there are Poskim that say we should not do so because there is an element of religion in it (Thanking God). And since the source of that is not Jewish it is seen by them as problematic. Especially in the nationally shared experience of eating turkey at a festive meal.
But I do not agree with them and instead agree with my Rebbe, R' Ahron Soloveichik who ate turkey on Thanksgiving. As did his brother, the Rav. Who rather famously cut his Thanksgiving day Shiur short so he could make it on time to the annual family Thanksgiving Day feast at his sister’s house. In my view it is never wrong to thank God for our blessings. That all Americans are asked to do so – each in our own way - should not prevent us from performing that Mitzvah on this day.
So for those of you that will be having turkey on this day, God bless you. And remember why you are having it.
Unfortunately, because of the pandemic, we should not be joining at big family gatherings this year. Health experts are all telling us that if we do that, it may very well turn into the biggest super-spreader of COVID so far!
Based on what the media is reporting, it seems like a lot of people are ignoring that advice and traveling to family. Just hope that dire predictions don’t come true. We are currently at record numbers of people dying daily from COVID in some states according the media reports.
One might ask how anyone can be thankful under these conditions? Well, if you think about it, I’ll bet there is a lot that most of us can be thankful for despite that. Those of us that have lost loved ones to this disease or any disease, may not be able to be in that frame of mind. And who can blame them? My heart goes out to all of them.
But for those of us that are merely suffering the inconveniences of our mitigation efforts, think about your blessings.
I am not happy being masked every time I go out of the house and standing as far away from other people as possible, but I do it anyway for fear of getting sick. And thank God I have been blessed to remain free of the disease. So on this day, I do focus on my blessings. Which God has amply given to me.
To the best of my knowledge, I am healthy both physically and mentally (although some people may question that last one). So is my wife, children and all of my grandchildren. One of my grandsons in Israel just got married. And one of my granddaughters (his sister) is getting married on the first night of Chanukah.
Although we could not attend those weddings, we are so grateful for those blessings. And just as we did with our grandson we will be watching a livestream of our granddaughter’s wedding.
We are grateful for all of our blessings. When I get depressed about living under the conditions of a pandemic, I look around and see what I have and realize just how lucky I actually am.
So my advice on this day is to focus on the positive and to thank God for it.