Thursday, November 23, 2006

Celebrating Thanksgiving

I've seen debates on a number of other blogs regarding what the proper Frum perspective is on celebrating Thanksgiving, so I'd like to clarify it.

The following is a quote from Igros Moshe, authored by Rav Moshe Feinstein z"l the foremost Posek of the recent past.

שו"ת אגרות משה חלק או"ח ה סימן כ ד"ה ובדבר
ובדבר טענקס - גיווינג, כבר כתבתי לאחד בתשובה באג"מ ח"ב דאה"ע סימן י"ג, שאין לאסור מדינא לקבוע על יום זה איזה שמחה, כסעודת בר מצוה ונישואין, אלא שבעלי נפש יש להם להחמיר. אבל לעשות שמחה וסעודה לכבוד טענקס - גיווינג, יש וודאי לאסור מדינא

Rav Moshe was entertaining the possibility that it would even be forbidden to make a LEGITIMATE Simcha, like a Bar-Mitzvah or Chasunah celebration on Thanksgiving, since it would APPEAR that one is celebrating Thanksgiving!

To THAT Rav Moshe writes that it isn't forbidden according to the letter of the law, but still a Ba'al Nefesh shouldn't do so!

Then Rav Moshe continues and writes that celebrating or making a Seudah SPECIFICALLY for Thanksgiving is CERTAINLY FORBIDDEN. (ודאי יש לאסור מידנא)

To summarize:

One is forbidden to celebrate Thanksgiving or make a special Seudah in its honor!

However, to schedule a legitimate Simcha, like a Bar-Mitzvah or Chasunah, on Thanksgiving, is Halachikly permitted but a Ba'al Nefesh shouldn't do even that, and should rather reschedule his legitimate Simcha for some other day!

Accordingly, it would be forbidden to eat turkey on Thanksgiving.

Because if it is being eaten as a full meal; it is clearly forbidden, since it falls under the category of making a Seudah.

And if it is just as a snack; since it is being eaten specifically in honor of Thanksgiving, it falls under the category of celebrating the holiday, something also forbidden. (When R’ Moshe writes it is forbidden to “make a Simcha”, he wasn’t referring to dancing a jig. Any way of expressing Simcha, like eating turkey expressly for Thanksgiving, is forbidden).

I have discussed this issue with many Poskim, and all agree that this was R’ Moshe’s intention.

Now for those who say that we have to be thankful to this wonderful country, the obvious answer is that we certainly should, but only by using our own methods, not Darkei Akum.

Please be aware that this is the opinion of R' Moshe Feinstein. There may have been others who took a different position, though I am unaware of it.

Please write in how and if you celebrate Thanksgiving. I'd also love to hear other opinions on this from reliable sources.


Anonymous said...

Now logistically it isnt feasible to make a whole celebration due to conflicting family obligations. However, when I was younger, I always had a sumptuous feast with my parents and other relatives on Thanksgiving.

HaRav Y. B. Soloveitchik ZT"L, held as a matterof fact, that one will have to answer and give account why they werent appreciative of the country they lived in, and held that you are required to participate in non-religious holidays of the place you live.

But I would make a major celebration if I met someone in Lakewood today, who came up to the Rav's toenails..

Sara with NO H said...

I've never celebrated it and I don't know anyone who does. But my idea was that it's an american holiday. no? It has little to nothing to do with religion at all. From my understanding, it basically is a celebration of the pilgrims coming to america. What's the big deal if people want to stuff a turkey (and themselves) to celebrate having this land.

Independant Frum Thinker said...

anonymous, thanks for the new viewpoint. (But why denigrate Lkwd?).

Sara, you raise a good point, but R' Moshe felt that even a holiday with no religious significance shouldn't be celebrated. However, as anonymous pointed out, there be be other opinions.

Anonymous said...

I think some poskim said that one can not celebrate thanksgiving because it originatted as holiday in which the pilgrims gave thanks to their g-d for keeping them alive and this therefore makes it a religious holiday.
additionally why is anyone criticizing lakewood for not following R. Solovatchik. he was not their posek or their leader and their posik who was not just their posek but the accepted posek of the whole world-R' Moshe said that one should not celebrate thanksgiving. No one will have to give a cheshbon for following the P'sak of the holy R' Moshe.

Anonymous said...

Funny, how when it is convenient to do so, we pull a Tshuva from Reb Moshe Ztz"l.

Tell me how many Lakewooders, only listen to music by a Chasana or Seudas Mitzvo, lfi the Rambam which was the Shita of Ha Gaon HaTzadik Reb Moshe.

How many yidden anywhere dont use a Shabbos zeiga for an air conditioner.

Last time I checked, most bochurim in Lakewood drive with their date in a car on the Garden State Pkwy late at night. My Rebbe heard directly from Reb Moshe's mouth that, that is a Shaila from Yichud and should be avoided.

Y.Y. said...

i totaly agree with you 100% and besides thanksgiving is a selfish holiday as it teaches americans to be thankful just occasionaly we have to thank hashem for every breath every second

Anonymous said...

first of all R' Moshe is one of many to say this. second of all wat is wrong with being makpid on following R'Moshe. in some situations it is hard to follow the psak of r moshe and people understandebly follow a more kal shita but over all alot of the Psak followed in america these days are from R' Moshe

steve said...


Thanks for bringing the exact quote from Rav Moshe. If you look on Harry Maryles blog, he totally misquotes him and says that he didn't assur celebrating Thanksgiving. Yasher Koach to you!

Anonymous said...

maryles' doesnt misquote him. YOu have taken the quote out of context You cant just take one line out of a teshuva and treat it like the psak.

True Jew said...

anonymous - that link is messed up. THAT guy misqoutes Rav Moshe, not Independent Frum Thinker!!!
I'm surprised you don't look it up yourself and see the truth.

Independant Frum Thinker said...

Anonymous 10:33 -
I checked your link, and what can I say? He simply misunderstood the words of R' Moshe. I brought an exact quote, with the source. You can look it up yourself and see who misquotes it.

Anonymous said...

so, I feel that often what happens is that people will identify with a Rav who answers their needs specifically. When that does not occur, they will 'shop' so to speak. I don't think that celebrating thanksgiving(or any other day that people may have off from work) is done in the same way as perhaps Rav Moshe decreed.
I believe that nowadays, 'thanksgiving' is a time for family to have a long weekend and be home together. If on that Shabbos, they have their own celebration, wouldn't that be permissible?

Anonymous said...

you brought an exact quote, totally out of context. Go read all four teshuvos and put this back in context and you'll see

anonym00kie said...

glad im not american :)

Independent Frum Thinker said...

Anonymous Nov 27, 1:47 –
Perhaps if one is doing it strictly as family time, and not to celebrate the holiday, it would be less of an issue.

Anonymous Nov 27, 3:41 –
I beg to differ. My quote is entirely NOT out of context.

Anonym00kie –
Well, I’m sure in your country you’ve got other issues.

frummeyid said...

Just a thought -- someone up above posted that thanking Hashem only on Thanksgiving somehow implies lack of Hakaras hatov the rest of the year. Aside form the rest of the issues, that is absurd. If that were true, then thanking Hashem for bikurrim (why wait until you get to yerusahalayim, you ingrate!) is selfish. Having a Chag HaKatzir is selfish too. So is saying Hallel --- what, you weren't thankful yesterday? More to th epoint, this reminds me of teh attitude of chutzpadik kids whose mother wants a Mother's Day card but the kid learnt in Yeshiva to tell mom "we don't do Mother's day, we always thank you". Of course, the mother is left thinking 'really? Did you appreciate me yesterdy when you left your room a mess?' Vhameiven yavin.

Independent Frum Thinker said...

Frummeyid -
Good point!

Anonymous said...

My grandfather followed Rav Moshe's opinion that a Thanksgiving feast was a Seudah empty of religious significance to a Jew. His custom was to eat no meat or to eat only a small portion on Thursdays so as to sharpen his appreciation for meat enjoyed on Shabbos. To set aside this custom for one Shabbos a year in order to eat a large meal on Thanksgiving was something he saw as unjustifiable. He noted that the extra expense required for a Thanksgiving feast was money that was better spent on preparing for the next day's Shabbos or given to tzeddekah. He argued that it was not a patriotic holiday like Veteran's Day, Memorial Day or the 4th of July. He was unconvinced by the argument that the holiday was without religious significance. He pointed to the greeting cards with a religious theme that were on sale before the holiday as establishing that the holiday has a religious component.

Anonymous said...

I suggest you take a look at this teshuva where Rav Moshe summarizes his shita:

שו"ת אגרות משה יורה דעה חלק ד סימן יב

ובעצם יש חילוק לדינא. דלתשובה הקודמת דאיכא הלאו דהליכה בחוקות הגוים, אסור אף פעם אחת בהזדמנות, אך אינו נאסר בשביל זה מלעשות איזה שמחה ביום זה, וגם סעודת מרעות בעלמא בלא כוונה לחשיבות היום. ולטעם תשובה אחרת ליכא איסור בהזדמנות שלא לכוונת חובה ומצווה אף שהוא בשביל כוונת חשיבות היום שעושין הנכרים, ומהראוי להחמיר כתשובה הקודמת.