Rabbi Bomzer of Albany, NY, once told me an incredible story. He was once asked by a Catholic Priest if Jews celebrate Thanksgiving. Without blinking, he responded “Of course! Every day of the year!”
The answer, though admittedly a little tongue-in-cheek, is essentially correct. Indeed, Jews do recite a special daily prayer to that effect each and every day. Each morning we recite Psalm 100, or “Mizmor LeTodah,” literally, “A psalm of Thanksgiving.”
In this beautiful little prayer consisting of a mere 5 verses, we express our thanks to G-d for just being, just existing!
“Acknowledge that the L-rd is G-d; He made us and we are His, His people, the flock which He tends…. Praise Him, Bless his name for the L-rd is good; His steadfast love is eternal, His faithfulness is for all generations.” It is worth pointing out a famous Midrash which states that in the future world all the Psalms will cease to be recited except Psalm 100, and therefore it ought to be sung with a joyous tune. (vid. O.C. 51:9)
In the Temple period, this song was most likely said at the time of the bringing of the “Thanksgiving (Todah) sacrifice” (vid. Lev. 7:11-19 & ibid. 22:29). One of the features of that sacrifice, and one which I was always curious about, is that according to the Torah, the Todah sacrifice is brought with 40 loaves of different kinds of breads, thirty of which are Matzo (like almost every other meal offering in the Temple), but ten of which must be Chametz, or made from leavened bread. The question is why?
It occurred to me that perhaps the matzo represents our sojourn in the dark and bitter exile, in which we would most likely be living in a state of privation and indigence, and yet we will be continually grateful to Hashem for our miraculous survival and continuity.
The ten rich Chametz breads on the other hand, perhaps represent those future periods in Jewish History, few and far between, when we will be living in relative prosperity, and free from want and fear.
At those times, we must, a fortiori, celebrate our good fortune, and thank Hashem with all our might. To my mind, the American experience, “The Goldene Medina,” is certainly our period of an “Aetas Mirabilis,” our age of good fortune.
America has given all of its citizens freedom of speech and religion, as well as freedom from want and fear. Although things may be far from perfect, our lives here are pretty good. The bounty which G-d has blessed this country with is almost unparalleled. The American Thanksgiving holiday is certainly an appropriate time to sing “Mizmor LeTodah” a song of thanksgiving “Praise the L-rd in happiness, come before Him in song!”
Rabbi Avraham Kelman