Biblical Thanksgiving

Happy Thanksgiving to all of our friends in America!  But the message is universal and is echoed in the Bible itself…

Indeed, Thanksgiving is a holiday that surpasses borders and boundaries between countries and people and that all of us – here in Israel and around the world – can identify with. Here are few thanksgiving themes that are echoed in the three major biblical pilgrimage holidays to the Holy Temple in Jerusalem:

Thanksgiving for freedom 
Pessach, also known as the Feast of Passover.  We celebrate and give thanks to the Lord for His outstretched arm which released us from the shackles of bondage and brought us, as a family, to freedom in a land flowing with “milk and honey”.

Wheat fields Sorek Valley

Wheat fields Sorek Valley

Thanksgiving for God’s bounty
Shavuot, also known as the Feast of Pentecost or First Fruits.  On this day, Jewish people from far and near would pour into Jerusalem bringing baskets of the very best of their harvest to the Great Temple in Jerusalem as a thanksgiving offering.  Today we continue the tradition but our home is the holy Temple and our table is our altar.

Fresh baked Challah bread

Fresh baked Challah

Thanksgiving daily bread
Special bread is baked and placed upon our tables on all biblical  holidays, including the Sabbath, as we give thanks to God, the eternal Provider.  It is called “Challah”.  We place a double portion on our tables, as a reminder of the double portion of Manna that God provided on Feast days, when no manner of work was permitted. Hallelujah – Praise the Lord!

Tabernacles Sukkah booth

Tabernacles Sukkah booth

Thanksgiving for shelter 
Sukkot, also known as the Feast of Tabernacles or Booths.  On this day we give thanks to the Almighty for having a home, a shelter, and a roof over our heads.  Each family builds a makeshift booth which we eat and even sleep in for a week, reminding as of how God sheltered our ancestors as they wandered in the Sinai wilderness and how He continues to shelter us today.

Psalms of Thanksgiving
There are so many expressions of Thanksgiving in the Bible; many to found in the book of Psalms itself.  One of these is known as the “great Hallel” or Song of Praise, and was recited by Jesus himself at the closing of the Last Supper meal:

 Psalm 136 (Selected Verses)
1 Give thanks to the LORD , for he is good. His love endures forever.
4 to him who alone does great wonders, His love endures forever.
5 who by his understanding made the heavens, His love endures forever.
6 who spread out the earth upon the waters, His love endures forever.
7 who made the great lights- His love endures forever.
10 to him who struck down the firstborn of Egypt His love endures forever.
11 and brought Israel out from among them His love endures forever.
12 with a mighty hand and outstretched arm; His love endures forever.
13 to him who divided the Red Sea [1] asunder His love endures forever.
14 and brought Israel through the midst of it, His love endures forever.
16 to him who led his people through the desert,  His love endures forever.
23 to the One who remembered us in our low estate His love endures forever.
24 and freed us from our enemies, His love endures forever.
25 and who gives food to every creature. His love endures forever.
26 Give thanks to the God of heaven, His love endures forever.

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