Opinion: I’m Thankful, But… | Avi Gutfreund

My family doesn’t particularly emphasize celebrating Thanksgiving, but each year we do make sure to go around the table and have everyone in the family mention several things that they are thankful for. This year

we tried getting my youngest son involved. Being that he is only four he didn’t quite get a full grasp of what we were doing but he understood enough to participate.

When we inquired what he was thankful for, he said “For the lamp.” We tried explaining that we meant something bigger, something that had a greater impact on his life, like parents, siblings, or friends. So he tried again, this time telling us that he was thankful for the couch “’cuz I like jumping on it.” And then it hit me – he was doing Thanksgiving correctly, and we had it all wrong. It’s easy to be thankful for your family and friends, a house, a car, and various other gifts that Hashem bestowed on us. But are we thankful for the smaller things? Am I truly thankful for the lamp in our living room or do I just take it for granted that I was able to afford it? Do I really appreciate that I have a sofa to relax on after a long, hard day?

I always found it fascinating that Thanksgiving and Black Friday are in such close proximity to each other. Just hours after proclaiming how thankful they are for all that they have, millions of Americans embark on a desperate dash to get themselves more products which they mostly don’t need. Even while being “thankful” we are looking to grow our empires of materialism. And while everyone is entitled to spend their money as they see fit, the fact is that our society stresses materialism as the surest path to happiness, which of course it is not. In fact, the root of happiness lies not in what new gadget we pick up on Black Friday, but in the thankfulness we feel on Thanksgiving. In fact, studies have shown that this is true. But you don’t need a study – try it.

So today, and every day, be thankful for the lamps and the couch and the rug and chair in your dining room. You won’t find happiness scouring Amazon for the latest hot product, but you just might find it in your appreciation of the little gifts you’ve been given in life.

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5 COMMENTS

  1. How about being thankful for the fact that we live in a country were we can practice our religion freely. something that we take for granted, but earlier generations more easily recognized.

  2. Whats so fascinating about Thanksgiving and Black Friday being close together?
    Is it “fascinating” that Taanis Esther and Purim are close together? What about Pesach and Easter?
    People just enjoyed a happy time thanking G-d and spending time with family. They want to keep the spirit going (kind of like the Minhag to put up the Sukkah on Motzei Yom Kippur).
    It’s too early to get a tree or decorate so they shop for gifts. Businesses owners (how many were and are Jews?) realized if they advertise people will come in, and if they offer sales, instead of just looking, people will buy.
    When a Yid buys a Sefer or clothes for the winter on Black Friday are the seeking happiness through materialism?
    We give happy things to our kids throughout the Jewish calendar. Afikoman presents, candy on Purim and Simchas Torah, Chanukka presents or gelt, apples and honey, etc.
    We do this so our kids will look back and remember Yom Tov as a time of joy and happiness. This will cause them to want to continue to observe them, and more importantly, they will want to pass them on to their children.
    Non-Jews are not aliens, they are human beings. They also want to pass their holidays onto the next generation. One way they accomplish this is by giving gifts which creates a feeling of joy and happiness. Exactly as we do.

  3. Black Friday is the official beginning of shopping for the holiday season. Until now people are supposed to focus on Thanksgiving and now the focus changes to the next holiday. In the frum world this has no meaning so Black Friday has become it’s own holiday and now consumerism has become so prevalent that even for many non jews it has taken precedence over Thanksgiving. btw, the couch you are remembering to give thanx for can be bought on Black Friday at a significant savings, (something to be thankful for)

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