A story is told one beautiful, sunny afternoon a woman was standing on the shore holding her young daughter’s hand when out of nowhere a tremendous wave engulfed them and in a split second swept the young child out to sea. The mother stood at the water’s edge screaming and praying to G-d to be reunited with her daughter.
To her great amazement, in the precise moment of her prayer, a second great wave delivered her daughter right back to her. As the mother began crying and expressing her heartfelt thanks for such an awesome miracle she noticed that the doll her daughter had been holding was still lost at sea. She looked up to the heavens and said, “there is one more thing.... dear G-d, she was holding a doll..."
We don’t necessarily need a miracle to remind us to express our gratitude. In the United States we have a holiday of thanksgiving to celebrate our good fortune.
In November of 1789, our first president, George Washington, proclaimed the first national celebration of Thanksgiving. He wrote, “both Houses of Congress have by their joint Committee requested me ‘to recommend to the People of the United States a day of public thanksgiving and prayer to be observed by acknowledging with grateful hearts the many signal favors of Almighty God especially by affording them an opportunity peaceably to establish a form of government for their safety and happiness.’"
As a Jew living in Malibu, I am especially grateful, because I am reminded of the pain and sorrow endured by my paternal grandmother Rochel, who lost all of her siblings in the Holocaust, and my maternal grandparents who fled religious persecution in communist Russia. The United States, in the spirit of "one Nation under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all," has afforded a safe and secure harbor for my family, the Jewish people, people of all walks of life, and in particular those who are victims of nations run by tyrants or religious extremists.
In the Rebbe’s 1984 Thanksgiving address, the Rebbe pointed out that Thanksgiving was not established by our nations leaders as a "religious" holiday, for "religious" people, rather as a day that all of us, regardless of our differences and beliefs take a moment give our gratitude to our Maker. While our founders spoke of "Divine providence," this holiday was to remind us that although our founders believed in the separation of Church and State, meaning there would be no official religion, they did believe in G-d.
Today more than ever, as tyranny and sentiments of hatred cloaked in the name of G-d and religion once again rears its ugly head, we must honor those who had the courage more than two and a half centuries ago to establish the United States of America. On behalf of all lovers of freedom, wherever you may be, thank you! May G-d bless this country and all good peoples of our planet. Happy Thanksgiving!