Americans have many customs as to what they say, or whether they say anything at all, when they assemble for Thanksgiving. But if you're looking for something unfamiliar but traditional, something both American and Biblical in spirit, here's a suggestion, courtesy of "The Book of Doctrine and Opinions," via Mosaic magazine.
Here's the Thanksgiving prayer composed and recited by Rabbi Joseph H. Lookstein of New York's Congregation Kehilath Jeshurun for its Thanksgiving Day service in 1940. The congregation recited in unison the last verse of the prayer.
We thank Thee for the glory of the universe, for the light of the sun and the mellowness of the moon and for the stars in their courses whose amazing dimensions and staggering distances challenge our imagination.
We thank Thee for the beauty and utility of Thy creations, for the flowers which are the stars of the earth even as the stars are the flowers of heaven; for the fertility of the soil and the abundance of its products; for the food that is borne within its bosom and the waters that flow from its deep and inner fountains; for the air that surrounds all creatures and that holds within its invisible self the secret and power of life.
We thank Thee for the dignity and majesty of man, for the spirit of wisdom with which Thou didst endow him, for the vision with which he is possessed, for the sensitivity of his heart and the profoundness of his soul. We thank Thee for the dominion that is his over all creation, for his capacity to live with all his kind and for the urge that stimulates him to search, to seek and ultimately to approach even Thee.
For all these blessings we thank Thee.
Almighty God, we pray that we may remain true to the destiny for which we were created. We pray that the dignity of human personality may be preserved and the reverence of man for man may continue. We pray that the beautiful heavens that Thou didst spread over our heads may not be darkened by the clouds of hate and that the magic carpet which is earth may not be disturbed by the tramp of hostile feet. We pray that man’s inhumanity to man may forever end and that human genius may continue to strive for greater perfection and for nobler fulfillment. Let man come to understand that he isclosest to God when he is nearer to man, that he worships at Thy holy throne when he serves Thy creatures and that he is within Thy holy shrine when he is at one with his fellow-beings.
We pray also for those of our fold in benighted lands of oppression, exposed to cruelty and suffering, that they may soon be blessed with the restoration of the rights and privileges of which they have been despoiled and which we believe to be the inalienable rights of man.
We pray sincerely for America and the ideals of democracy and freedom that are here enshrined. May she be strong to withstand all the currents that assail her and all the forces of evil that would invade her sacred precincts. A tower of light to her own citizenry, may she cast a steady beam and light up all the dark areas of the world and show to a perplexed and straying humanity the path of freedom, of life and of peace.
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