Five millennia ago, our people fled the bondage of Egypt and moved toward a land "filled with milk and honey" that would offer them freedom and the opportunity to grow into a great nation. During our desert wandering, we listened to God's instruction [Leviticus 23:39-43] to build thatch-roofed huts. Decorating our huts with boughs of leafy trees and myrtle and willows of the brook, the people rested and gave thanks to God for their freedom. These former slaves envisioned a New World that they themselves would help to create on the soil of Canaan.
Once they reached the Land, the Israelites enjoyed its abundance and shared it, leaving the gleanings of their crops at the corners of their fields for the poor. Three times a year, they made pilgrimage to Jerusalem and brought thanksgiving offerings to God. And still today, in the Fall as the havest comes in, we Jews sit in thatch-roof huts, eating our meals under the stars, inviting guests into our Sukkah, and thank God for the abundance we enjoy.
Almost 390 years ago, pilgrims from Europe celebrated their first Thanksgiving here on the soil of America. They were expressing their gratitude for the survival of the Plymouth Colony during that first very difficult year. These pilgrims had wandered through their own wilderness. Fleeing from the bondage of religious oppression in Europe, they traveled towards a land that would offer them freedom and the opportunity to grow into a great nation. They too, envisioned a New World that they themselves would help to create on the soil of America.
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