After a month of many holidays, from Rosh Hashanah all the way to Simchat Torah, we ask (after taking a breath), “What’s the next Jewish holiday?” We usually get the answer, “Hanukkah in about two months.” However, I would like to argue that there is another Jewish holiday before Hanukkah and that is the holiday of Thanksgiving.
There many similarities between Thanksgiving and our holiday of Sukkot. They are both harvest festivals. We see a lot of the same objects like gourds and squashes, and have the color theme of orange, red, and yellow. This is no accident. There are many scholars who see the early Pilgrims (very well versed in the bible) looking to commandments surrounding the holiday of Sukkot as a guide for the original three-day feast with the Native Americans in 1621. One thing both the early Israelites and the Pilgrims knew was that food was not a given. This is why, in both Sukkot and Thanksgiving, there is another theme which runs throughout the holiday and that is thankfulness.
During the holiday of Sukkot we do many things to both offer our thanks, like singing Hallel (a collection of thanking psalms) and to hope for a good next year. For instance, we begin to ask for rain for a good harvest during Sukkot. Being thankful is also big in Thanksgiving, as it is in the name. We bring together family and food and are thankful for both.
So, as we prepare our Thanksgiving tables this month, let us think of what we are thankful for not just in our secular lives, but our Jewish ones as well.