Temple Shabbat Shalom
Rabbi and Karen Alpern
A THANKSGIVING TABLE CEREMONY
* Review the ceremony and feel free to make additions.
* Musical interludes are welcome.
* Welcome to our Thanksgiving Table Ceremony. Before the feast we will fill our minds and hearts with the Thanksgiving Story and the events that inspire giving thanks.
*This ceremony is designed to be read around the table. During the meal we will continue our conversation and then
end with Grace.
Baruch ata Adoneigh elohanu melech haolam asher kidshanu bamitzvotav lehadleak Ner shel yom tov.
All praise to You, Lord our God, who teaches us the way by the light of these festival candles.
To Life! May all who hunger come and eat and find nourishment here. Wine gladdens the heart and we drink it today
to remind us that everything material may be lifted up to the Lord.
Baruch ata adoneighn elohanu melech haolam boray pri hagafen.
* We sanctify this home as a sanctuary with our words.
We are about to fulfill the greatest commandment – To proclaim that we all worship the same God and that our
mission is to promote liberty and justice for all.
THANKSGIVING AND THE GREATEST COMMANDMENT:
We love You Lord our God with heart and soul, and all we have. We hear Your teachings, which You renew every
day. We teach them diligently to our children, speak of them in our homes and sanctuary’s, when we journey,
everywhere, every morning and evening. Your teachings are the focus of our minds eye. We write them as a reminder
on our hands and our doors, in our homes and on the gates of our cities. By loving You we learn to love our neighbor
and to love ourselves.
NARRATIVE (EVERYONE READS A PORTION)
* Our story, as far back as we go, is one of exile, redemption, and return. Our history moves from slavery to freedom,
as individuals and as a people.
* Our American ancestry, the Puritans, were slaves to the king of England. They were freed by a mighty hand, and
their courage, as they set sail to their promised land. The pilgrims had a dream of heaven on earth, in a New England,
to build a New Jerusalem and Zion.
* Our modern American prophet, Dr Martin Luther King Jr. also had a dream, that we ever live the meaning of
our creeds, that self evident truth become evident by being realized. We dream of a nation without hunger, with liberty for
all, including opportunities that allow every citizen to pursue happiness.
* These truths become evident as our history unfolds. So we pray with Dr. King, that the clanging gongs of
discord soon harmonize into a beautiful symphony of true equality. Then we will proclaim liberty throughout the land unto all
* When the pilgrims arrived on the rocky shores of the Atlantic in 1620 they landed in the territory of the Wam-
pa-noag Native Americans.
* The Wam-pa-no-ag feared the whites since they had been raiding their coastal waters for the past century.
* Still, their religion teaches the giving of charity to the helpless and food to the hungry.
* The Wam-pa-no-ag celebrated six Thanksgivings a year. Giving thanks is an essential part of their religion.
* Plants and harvested corn is thanked for sustaining life. All animals are thanked for their nourishment.
* For the Wam-pa-no-ag Thanksgiving is a time for gift giving. The act of giving away material things teaches
thankfulness for abundance.
* Who is rich? Only those happy with what they have, according to the Talmud.
* In the light of our modern celebration of Thanksgiving it is interesting to note that our Native American ancestors
celebrated with sporting events.
* Now it is time for our sacred meal which we celebrate with blessings, grace, and song.
GRACE BEFORE THE MEAL
Lord our God, God of our ancestors, of our hearts, and minds, we acknowledge Your presence as we break bread
in Your house. Amen.
Baruch ata adoneigh elohanu melech haolam hamotzi lehem min haaretz.
* Throughout this sacred meal we will continue our discussion of Thanksgiving.
* Our sages teach: At the table we are obligated to discuss the word and its work in the world to fulfill the vision
* “This is the table which is in the presence of the Lord.”
THE NARRATIVE CONTINUES:
* As we discussed earlier the pilgrims fled from England to establish a New England.
Our progress as modern day pilgrims is now open to discussion.
* We share with our ancestors a vision of an American life with the possibility of heaven on earth, our Eden. Our
puritan founders were brave and earnest souls, but did not separate church and state. All issues were dealt with from
this perspective. The Puritans could not accept the fact that the natives had the right to practice their own religion.
The colonists sought to persuade the natives that they were descendants of the ten lost tribes of Israel. They also
sought to convert them. They had more success with the natives than with the Jews.
* Then there arose a hero among the puritans, by the name of Roger Williams. He was a minister in Salem,
Massachusetts who believed in the separation of church and state. His radical teachings included the idea that the
lands of the colonies belonged to the native inhabitants.
* So in the beginning Puritanism was exclusive, no other citizens were recognized as citizens.
* By the end of the 18th century when our republic was founded the puritans moved to accept the Protestants.
* We thank God that our founding fathers demanded a separation of church and state allowing the citizenship of
Jews and Catholics. In our time we welcome as citizens the poor, immigrants, anyone who yearns to be free, of
* We welcome as citizens of The American Covenant, all those seeking a more perfect life, to partake in this feast
of unfolding freedom.
A GRACE AFTER THE MEAL
* First an Iroquois (Seneca) Prayer:
GWA! GWA! GWA!
Hear us- Lord of the Sky, we are here to speak the truth, for You do not hear lies, we are Your children, Lord of the Sky.
You say we should always be thankful, for our earth and for each other, this is why we are gathered here, and we
are Your children Lord of the Sky.
THE PURITANS PRAYER: A PSALM
* To honor our pilgrim ancestors we continue the custom of “lining”, repeating each line after the reader.
Listen as each part of Psalm 23 is read and repeat line per line:
* Lord feed me
* I shall not lack
* in green pastures
* God makes me lie
* and gently leads me
* still waters by
* Return my soul
* For Your sake
* in paths of justice
* lead me quickly back
* Though I walk
* in the shadow of death
* with me Thou will be
* I will remain unafraid
* Thy promise and Thy power
* shall my comfort be
* this table -ordered – ready made
* will my persecutors see
* humbly anointed
* high priests and prophets
* shall we be
* our cup runneth over
* All the days of our life
* each and every day
* in goodness and mercy
* we then dwell – and rest – quietly.
* Prayer for our Puritan ancestors was completely from the heart and extemporaneous.
We will now go around the table to give our Thanksgiving thoughts.
Each participant expresses: I am thankful for…..
* Prophesy was an important part of the original Pilgrims worship. In the spirit of a modern prophet, Dr. Martin Luther
King we now go around the table to express our dreams for all mankind.
“I have a dream of……..
* We end with a formal grace:
* O Lord God of our United States of America, we have eaten Your bounty and heard Your words, we are delightfully
satisfied , so we give thanks to You once again.
* We thank You for the all the nourishment and the produce of the field.
* For the lovely and spacious land You gave our ancestors as a heritage, to eat of the fruit and enjoy its good gifts,
we offer Thanksgiving.
* Have mercy, Lord our God, on all Your people, in Washington, Your city, and all of our leaders.
* May the Pilgrims dream of Zion be fulfilled in our lifetime and our democracy be a light to all peoples in the world.
(WE ALL RECITE TOGETHER)
May the Lord watch over us and enlighten us with the grace of presence.