TIME TO PLAN YOUR THANKSGIVING SEDER! –Turkey and Football are Not Enough!
No one knows exactly what happened at the first Thanksgiving, but we are pretty sure that God was on the guest list. Along the way, Thanksgiving, like so many American Holidays, has lost much of its original meaning, getting lost somewhere between the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade, the Butterball turkey preparation hotline and a day of uninterrupted football observance.
That is WHY you NEED a Thanksgiving Seder! Wait, you’re thinking Passover Seder. Right? Well, the word seder simply means “order.” Think about the book you use to pray – it is called a siddur because it gives you the “order of prayer.” The Passover Seder gives you the order of the meal. Your Thanksgiving Seder gives “order” to the meal, by reflecting on its spiritual and historical messages through words and symbols.
You don’t have to be Jewish to have a Thanksgiving Seder; the values are shared by all. The history is the same, but how we each relate to Thanksgiving may be different. So here are a few ideas for starting your own ritual, to be shared either at your own table, or to bring as an idea to friends and family:
- Tell the story. Tell the highlights of the story of the Pilgrims leaving for the New World so that they could practice their religion in their own way.
- Go around the table and ask where your ancestors came from, and when they came to America… and WHY they came!
- Put a clear container of salt water on the table to remind everyone about the perilous journey that each new immigrant had to make to come to this wonderful land of Freedom.
- Have a Glass of Thanks. Let everyone say something they are thankful for, and add a drop!
- Place an ear of corn and some cranberries on a plate to symbolize the first Thanksgiving. The cranberries symbolize the first harsh winter. The corn reminds us that had the Native Americans not taught us how to grow, store and cook corn, we would have starved.
- Open the front door and have someone say these words from Emma Lazarus’ “New Colossus,” the words written on the base of the Statue of Liberty.
“Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”
- And don’t forget to leave an empty chair somewhere in the room– to symbolize that there is always room for one more new American!
- Start your meal with a blessing, and end with a blessing: the blessing of your choice, a blessing of your own making. Thank God that you, your ancestors, your children, have the good fortune to live in a land that protects and defends your right to pray as you wish, without fear. As Jews, it is a blessing of which we should never lose sight.
Chag Sameyach, Happy Holiday,
Rabbi Rose Lynn Jacob has led the Fauquier Jewish Congregation, in Warrenton, Virginia for the past seven years. In this small Jewish community that draws from 5 counties, she also serves as cantor, educator, celebrant for life-cycle events, and the representative of the Jewish community. Many of her families are interfaith, or have converted spouses. She sees her task as creating a positive inclusive atmosphere, especially with regard to instilling Jewish identity in a bible-belt community. Rabbi Rose can be reached at RabbiRose.Jacob@gmail.com.