In a world that is full of tragedy and uncertainties, what is there to be thankful for?
For the Pilgrims who sailed from England to the New World aboard the ship Mayflower, there was a lot to be grateful for when they first landed in New England nearly four-hundred years ago. They were thankful for their safe landing on the shores of America after a dangerous voyage across the Atlantic. It was then followed by their survival from the harsh winter in their new homeland with the help of a Native American named Squanto and an allied tribe. When November 1621 arrived, those who survived celebrated the “First Thanksgiving” for God’s providence and benevolence with new friends.
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But the act of thanksgiving (or its offering and celebration) can also be traced back to the ancient Israelites right after their exodus from Egypt when they first started to craft laws and introduced punishments and rewards for their people. These were not ordinary laws as they were given by God through Moses. These laws also included something unique to the Hebrew culture called the todah or the thanksgiving offering. The todah (or specifically korban todah) means thanksgiving offering, but it can also be an act of confession, sacrifice, and even praise to God in some Biblical passages. Verses related to the act of todah or thanksgiving offering can be found from the book of Leviticus to the book of Jonah, but it was first mentioned in Leviticus 7:12-15.
12 If he offers it for a thanksgiving, then he shall offer with the thanksgiving sacrifice unleavened loaves mixed with oil, unleavened wafers smeared with oil, and loaves of fine flour well mixed with oil. 13 With the sacrifice of his peace offerings for thanksgiving he shall bring his offering with loaves of leavened bread. 14 And from it he shall offer one loaf from each offering, as a gift to the Lord. It shall belong to the priest who throws the blood of the peace offerings. 15 And the flesh of the sacrifice of his peace offerings for thanksgiving shall be eaten on the day of his offering. He shall not leave any of it until the morning. -Leviticus 7:12-15
For the Hebrew sages, Psalm 107 offered a glimpse of some events that deserved the thanksgiving offering which included:
* The safe arrival of a person who went on a dangerous journey across a desert.
* The safe arrival of a person’s journey across the sea.
* The freedom of those who were captured or imprisoned.
* The deliverance of those who rebelled but were later remorseful.
These were some of the many examples in the Bible. Throughout the book of Psalms, the psalmists found many instances worthy of thanksgiving offering that went beyond the occasional ones laid out in Leviticus 7. Today’s world offers an uncertain future, but the practice of todah or thanksgiving offering anchors us in God’s love and reminds us that gratitude can be practiced every day.
Picture By Robert Walter Weir – PwHe6-AEvwmbIw at Google Cultural Institute maximum zoom level, Public Domain, Link
“8426. (todah) — Thanksgiving.” Bible Hub. Accessed November 09, 2016. http://biblehub.com/hebrew/8426.htm.
“History of Thanksgiving.” History.com. 2009. Accessed November 09, 2016. http://www.history.com/topics/thanksgiving/history-of-thanksgiving.
Travis, Rabbi Daniel. “Tefilah: Praying With Joy.” Torah.org. Accessed November 09, 2016. http://torah.org/learning/tefilah-korbantodah/.
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