The Talmud teaches us that our matriarch Leah was the first human being in human history to give thanks to God. What could the Talmud possibly mean when it says Leah was the first?
The episode to which the Talmud refers is the birth of Leah's fourth son, Judah. Judah, whose name in Hebrew shares a root with Yehudi, is given his name because it means "praise" or "thanks." Leah, the Talmud explains, knew that Hashem would give Jacob twelve sons and, since he had four wives, each would give birth to three boys. However, when Leah gave birth to Judah, her fourth son, she saw that she had been given more than her fair share, and saw fit to give thanks to Hashem for her blessing.
This is the uniquely Jewish perspective on Thanksgiving. We recognize our role in the world as Jacob's descendants. For us, thankfulness comes when we see that we have received more than we deserve, more than our fair share, more of Hashem's blessings.
Most people see Thanksgiving as an American holiday -and it is- but our special perspective on Thanksgiving gives us an additional understanding. As we look upon our remarkable synagogue community, our hard-working Rabbi, Board of Directors, Committee Chairs, Sunday School and Hebrew School teachers and our generous and supportive families and friends, let us be truly thankful… for we have been given much more than we deserve.
Congregation B'nai Israel