Wednesday, November 25th, 2009
In heavily Orthodox American communities, they have a special named for Thanksgiving:
That’s too bad. Aren’t we as a people all about gratitude, looking at the bright side, the glass half full and all that? Isn’t it practically a Jewish axiom that “things could always be worse?”
Still, people tear their kishkes out about enjoying a secular holiday. Google “Is Thanksgiving Jewish?” and you’ll get an astonishing 13,800,000 results.
If it makes you happier, call it Hakores Hatov Day. And if you need halachic sanction to help you enjoy your turkey without a side order of guilt, take heart in the fact that numerous prominent halachic decisors have ruled that it is a secular holiday. For example, the revered Rav Moshe Feinstein in 1980 essentially gave it a shrug and a “why not?”
“Since it is clear that according to their religious law books this day is not mentioned as a religious holiday and that one is not obligated in a meal [according to Gentile religious law] and since this is a day of remembrance to citizens of this country, when they came to reside here either now or earlier, halakhah [Jewish law] sees no prohibition in celebrating with a meal or with the eating of turkey. One sees similar to this in Kiddushin 66 that Yanai the king made a party after the conquest of kochlet in the desert and they ate vegetables as a remembrance.” [Hat tip to myjewishlearning.com]
Of course, the Rav cautions, the feast should not be seen as an imperative akin to festive meals on Purim or Passover. So there is no commitment to God to eat turkey.
Your mother-in-law, on the other hand, is another story.