America’s Annual Shabbat

I recently wrote about Abraham Joshua Heschel’s The Sabbath, which I read for a class. After I wrote that post, … Continued

I recently wrote about Abraham Joshua Heschel’s The Sabbath, which I read for a class. After I wrote that post, we were discussing the book in class, and the professor asked us what might be the American or secular version of the Sabbath, or Shabbat. Suddenly it hit me: Thanksgiving!

Yes, Thanksgiving is the annual American Shabbat. I say this having lived for three months in Jerusalem, where for Shabbat everything shuts down, no one works, and everyone spends time with their family eating and napping. Sound familiar?

Just like many religious Jews on Shabbat, we Americans don’t even consider not celebrating Thanksgiving; it’s just what we do. It’s a holiday for all Americans, remembering the founding of our country, as Shabbat is for all Jews, commemorating the creation of the world. Both holidays channel this people-wide celebration through the family.

Although Thanksgiving comes just once a year, it has the same power that Shabbat has to help us contemplate and take a break from our lives to give thanks for what we have and spend time with those we love.

The root “Shabbat” in Hebrew literally means “stop.” So Shabbat Shalom, a peaceful stop to everyone. Happy Thanksgiving!


  • JC

    Ms. Rabin,Great little post thanks! I too live out of the US now and I appreciate our “American Sabbath” even more. For our famiy Thanksgiving was always a more important day than even Christmas as I come from a faith tradition that doesn’t really encourage Christmas as it has been overly secularized. Thanksgiving however seems to have remained a little purer. You get together, you eat, you visit and most of all you take a moment to thank God for the blessings he has given you.You may find it interesting while on the subject of Shabbat that some Christians are beginning to observe this time. The last time I was in the states on furlough one of our supporting congregations in Colorado had begun holding a Shabbat observance. Granted it would be drastically different perhaps even sacreligious for some Jews, we were in casual wear around a camp fire about 9,000 ft. in elevation. But we lit the candles, read a blessing and had a moment for prayer and fellowship. I have always been at a quandry concerning the Jewish holidays because there is no real definitive point when they are discontinued when one reads the history of the primitive church in Acts. So I always think to myself, so are we supposed to be celebrating Sabbath or not?In the book of Hebrews chapter 4 I believe it has this great passage about the Sabbath rest of God. I have come to the conclusion that while Christians may not necessarily need to be observing Shabbat just as Jews do the concept remains very relevant. The concept being that we put our trust in God to take care of us, taking ourselves out of the business of life and enjoying a moment of fellowship with our Creator and others who love Him.

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