This time of year is one of the highlights of the year for me. I find myself looking forward with great anticipation and hope, and looking back with much reverence and greater understanding each year.
As soon as “Reformation Day” comes I find myself feeling a sense of excitement and renewed energy. I shared some of my thoughts connecting the Reformation and Thanksgiving with Sukkot and Hanukkah a few years ago in Reformation, Puritans, Separatists and the Torah and those thoughts have continued to develop.
Here’s an interesting quote from Judaism 101:
Many Americans, upon seeing a decorated sukkah for the first time, remark on how much the sukkah (and the holiday generally) reminds them of Thanksgiving. This may not be entirely coincidental: I was taught that our American pilgrims, who originated the Thanksgiving holiday, borrowed the idea from Sukkot. The pilgrims were deeply religious people. When they were trying to find a way to express their thanks for their survival and for the harvest, they looked to the Bible for an appropriate way of celebrating and found Sukkot. This is not the standard story taught in public schools today (that a Thanksgiving holiday is an English custom that the Pilgrims brought over), but the Sukkot explanation of Thanksgiving fits better with the meticulous research of Mayflower historian Caleb Johnson, who believes that the original Thanksgiving was a harvest festival (as is Sukkot), that it was observed in October (as Sukkot usually is), and that Pilgrims would not have celebrated a holiday that was not in the Bible (but Sukkot is in the Bible). Although Mr. Johnson claims that the first Thanksgiving was “not a religious holiday or observance,” he apparently means this in a Christian sense, because he goes on to say that the first Thanksgiving was instead “a harvest festival that included feasts, sporting events, and other activities,” concepts very much in keeping with the Jewish religious observance of Sukkot.
Here is an article that I read a many years ago that talks about the history of Thanksgiving, the origins of this wonderful holiday. Turns out, our huguenot/puritan forefathers of America wanted to glorify HaShem in honor of His provision for them and apparently drew heavily on the Biblical and traditional festival of Sukkot.
I also want to share with my friends that Desperate Crossings: The Untold Story of the Mayflower will be airing again this year on the History channel on Tuesday, November 24 at 8:00 am and 2:00 pm. Watching this has become an annual family tradition ever since we first watched it several years ago and found so much in common with the pilgrims.
So as we prepare to celebrate Thanksgiving here in the USA, I find myself deep in thought about the continued refining of the believers in Messiah, the joy of Sukkot, the strength and commitment that gave us Hanukkah and the soon coming of Messiah. No wonder it’s a season of joy and anticipation, of remembering and finding my identity.