In 1863, U.S. President Abraham Lincoln issued a proclamation that created a cherished American holiday.
Reflecting upon the year that was soon to close, President Lincoln declared that the U.S. should “observe the last Thursday of November next, as a day of Thanksgiving and Praise to our beneficent Father who dwelleth in the Heavens.” And so, the Thanksgiving holiday was born.
Think about the date of that proclamation. In 1863, the nation Lincoln led was involved in the Civil War, the bloodiest conflict in U.S. history. President Lincoln’s job of seeing the war through to victory for the Union and healing his nation afterward was one of the greatest challenges any president has ever faced. And yet, he told his countrymen to set aside time to give thanks to God — in effect, declaring to the nation: even in the toughest of times, we must appreciate our blessings.
This message particularly resonates with me as I reflect upon both the difficulties and blessings that I encountered this year. My father’s unexpected death last February has been the biggest challenge in my life. I lost my Abba, my mentor, and my role model all at once. After his death, I assumed the role of president of The Fellowship — a role I expected to fill a few years later and with my father by my side to turn to for guidance if I needed it. I experienced a year with a fair share of uncertainty and adversity. And yet, blessings abound.
I could never have imagined the overwhelming support and outpouring of love that I received from Fellowship partners around the world. Your prayers held up my family and me during our most turbulent time. Your faith in me provided a solid foundation so that I could step up and lead.
My father also left behind a system and staff so well configured that The Fellowship didn’t miss a beat upon his passing. In fact, a Fellowship Freedom Flight filled with Ukrainian Jews making aliyah to Israel landed during my father’s funeral. In the critical weeks and months that followed, our amazing Fellowship family banded together and pulled through with flying colors. Today, nearly a year since my father’s passing, we are stronger than ever.
I have so much to be thankful for! This Thanksgiving, as I thank God for the many blessings he has bestowed upon me and upon The Fellowship‘s ministry, I will also be thanking God for you, our Fellowship supporters. None of what we do would be possible without you. Through your generosity, more Jews have been brought to their biblical homeland, more hungry Jews have been fed, and more Jewish orphans have been given safe, comfortable places to live than ever before. With God’s blessing, we truly have been able to do extraordinary things, and have touched countless lives for the better.
As you sit down to your Thanksgiving meal, I hope that your heart will be filled with gratefulness for the many blessings in your life, and brim over with thanks to the God Who is the source of all those blessings. “Hodu laHashem ki tov, ki lolam chasdo,” “Give thanks to the LORD, for he is good; his love endures forever” (Psalm 118:1).
With blessings from the Holy Land,
Tags: Abraham Lincoln Holidays IFCJ Rabbi Yechiel Eckstein Thanksgiving The Fellowship