As we move into this season of thanks and gratitude, I am thinking about the Hebrew word Todah. The basic translation of this word as “thank you” is often one of the first Hebrew words taught in Jewish educational environments, but its spiritual weight is quite profound.
The root l’hodot really means “to acknowledge.” In the ancient Temple there was a zevach todah, a Thanksgiving sacrifice (we aren’t the first to enjoy roasted meat as a ritual meal!), which allowed the community to succumb to the pleasure of eating meat but in a spiritual and ritualized framework. Another famous example of this root word is in King David’s famous line in the Psalms, read in every Shabbat prayer service: tov l’hodot l’Adonai – “it is good to acknowledge the source of our blessing.”
The American Thanksgiving celebration season is an opportunity to acknowledge on a deeper level what Jewish tradition encourages us to consider on a daily and weekly basis: we are part of an interdependent web, from our family structures, our workplace relationships, our role in the economy, our impact on the climate and the natural world, and the societal structures that in fact benefit and even privilege some more than others. When we go on auto-pilot and rush through our lives, we do not in fact acknowledge or thank all those who are giving of themselves to support our ease and experience.
This Thanksgiving, I challenge you to take that thankful pause and really evaluate the situations you find yourself in. Find a way to acknowledge and give thanks with sincerity, authentic connection and ideally with an action that can begin to transform our world from a series of transactions to true thanksgiving.