Rabbi’s Message: Thanksgiving in a Time of Pandemic?

Posted on November 13, 2020 by Arnold S. Gluck

Thanksgiving and the pandemic sound like a contradiction in terms. A plague is ravaging our country. What have we to be grateful for? A lot, actually! And, it is precisely when we are beset by troubles that it becomes all the more important to practice gratitude, if for nothing other than our mental health. Giving thanks reminds us that what is negative, as real as it is, doesn’t constitute the whole story — that the good in our lives doesn’t go away because bad things are happening. Seeing that good can lift our spirits and give us strength to cope with the very real challenges we face.

Having an attitude of gratitude at such times also helps us to recognize and appreciate the good things that are happening in response to those challenges. Chief among these are all the acts of kindness and caring that are being performed by caregivers, first responders, and essential workers, all of whom are acting heroically to serve the needs of others. We owe it to them and to ourselves to recognize and appreciate their great goodness. For most of us, our annual Thanksgiving family gatherings will be a casualty of the pandemic, and that will be greatly disappointing. But we can soften the blow by realizing that we still have so much to be thankful for — the fundamental blessings of life and health, the food that sustains us, and the freedoms that we cherish. As people of faith, the heart of our Thanksgiving is the belief that our fundamental rights and blessings are derived from the very source of life. They are gifts of God, who has lovingly bestowed them upon us all. Pausing to remember this should bring us all joy and uplift.

So let us look to Thanksgiving not with disappointment for what it might not be this year. Let us look instead to the many blessings we have received by the love and grace of God. And let us respond with love and generosity to share those blessings with those who are in need.

This year we will join, once again, with our interfaith partners to celebrate Thanksgiving in song and prayer, and in support of our shared commitment to IHN, the Interfaith Hospitality Network for the Homeless. Please join us for this joyful celebration on Tuesday, November 24 at 7:00 pm at this Zoom link:


May God’s blessings of abundance be with you and your loved ones now and always.


Rabbi Arnold S. Gluck


Originally published in the November-December 2020 issue of the Shofar. For more issues of the Shofar, visit the Shofar archives.