“Let us come before him with thanksgiving and extol him with music and song. 3 For the LORD is the great God, the great King above all gods. In his hand are the depths of the earth, and the mountain peaks belong to him.” – Psalm 95:2
While Israel celebrated Sukkot during the High Holy Days, celebrations of Thanksgiving take place at different times around the world, this week taking place in the United States. Most people think of turkeys, pilgrims and Native Americans in relation to American Thanksgiving, however it has more ties to Israel and Judaism than most people realize.
While Puritans were indeed Christians, they heavily drew from the Old Testament, and in fact referred to themselves as “Christian Israel”, very much believing in a “replacement theology”, meaning that the Jewish people were no longer God’s chosen people. They believed that they were now a covenanted people, gaining favor from God as long as they kept His commands. With this belief, they mostly preached from the Old Testament, named their children names from the Old Testament and instituted Mosaic Law and government in The New World. Even the town Salem is named as a shortened version of Jerusalem.
With this knowledge of how they viewed themselves, even seeing themselves similar to the Hebrews fleeing Egypt, it is not surprising that they ended up holding a day of Thanksgiving, very similar to Sukkot. A lesser-known part of the first Thanksgiving celebrations included fasting, drawing further inspiration from the High Holy Days.
While you feast and give thanks to God for all of the blessings He has given you this year, remember you are part of a tradition and calling to praise and give thanks that has spanned generations, continents and histories!