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!