Rabbi Milder of Beth Emek in Pleasanton sent out this delightful message to his congregants. I simply HAD to share it with you. There are so many great things in it.
1. There’s a lovely blessing to say at your Thanksgiving table. (Below in italics)
2. There’s the delightful learning about the meaning of a word (Hodu) and the way in which Jewish students & scholars love to dig into the root meaning of every letter!
3. There’s the history story about Turkey and India and America.
So whether you go away charmed, humored or touched, enjoy and give thanks for a life so full of good things.
How should Jews celebrate Thanksgiving?
For starters, let’s begin Thanksgiving with Motzi. If you don’t regularly recite this blessing for a meal, this is certainly the occasion that calls for it.
Now, if you would like to add something special, try this Thanksgiving hymn from the book of Psalms, Psalm 100:
Enter into the gates of the Eternal with thanksgiving
And into God’s courts with praise;
Give thanks to God,
And bless God’s holy name.
For the Eternal is good,
God’s kindness endures forever…
The words in Hebrew are particularly fitting for this holiday. “Give thanks to God” is “Hodu lo.”
Now, here is what you need to know to appreciate this accidental double entendre.
The word “hodu”, give thanks, is also the Hebrew word for India, as in the country. I don’t know why. It just is.
When Columbus arrived on these shores, and saw these strange birds running around, thinking he was in India, he dubbed them “Indian chickens,” which is what turkeys were then called. Turn “Indian chicken” into Hebrew, and you get Tarnegol Hodu, which has, over time, been shortened simply to Hodu.
This should not be surprising. After all, Americans name the bird after one Asian country, Turkey; Jews name it after another Asian country, India.
But, in a coincidence that only God could have planned, this etymology yields the magnificent double entendre of the Hebrew “Hodu lo,” which can mean either “Give thanks to God,” or alternatively, “Turkeys for God.”
And that, friends, is how Jews should celebrate Thanksgiving.
Rabbi Larry Milder