Happy Thanksgiving!

Every morning, we pray psalm 100, which is a song of Thanksgiving. In fact, those are its first words: מִזְמוֹר לְתוֹדָה . “A song/melody of thanksgiving.” It was daily sung in the Temple during the time of Yeshua. Since we who belong to Messiah are the Temple [1 Cor 3:16], we have decided to pray in the same manner, daily. And that should give us a heart of ‘thanksgiving’.

As I finished my prayers this morning, I contemplated the fact that today is ‘Thanksgiving’ for America. And people do like to honor that, in their own way, many of whom no longer believe in God, and many who say they believe, but do not seem actively to trust Him and obey His Word. My wife and I were hunting for something on television this morning, and one channel said they would host it, but there was only some psychobabble about ‘gratitude,’ which I’m certain sprang because of the day it is; it seemed to make the notion of giving thanks to God very trite, and was more a ‘self-centered’ “I’m so special” trick of the mind. We were both put off by the language. Perhaps because we already live a life of genuine thanksgiving. Why? Because we once knew we were lost.

As I briefly contemplated that today is the country’s day set aside for gratitude toward God, it occurred to me that my gratitude toward Him for Salvation in His Son Yeshua is also something I personally thank Him for daily. Once I complete the Temple prayers, I begin to petition Him personally. For the last few nights, in my nighttime prayers, I’ve asked Him about why He waits on answering some of my more dire prayers, and I recalled how when I began to serve Him wholeheartedly at 22 years old, every prayer I prayed seemed to be answered immediately: miracles were done! Don’t get me wrong, we still see His hand moving powerfully in our lives, but I realized that the more critical prayers concerning salvation are fought over in the heavens, and God must want us to find the resolve to continue to pray! So, I did that, as I began to thank Him for my Salvation again, this morning, and then psalm 118 came to mind, which is also a prayer of THANKSGIVING.

In fact, the first verse and the last verse of it are identical:

הוֹדוּ לַיהוה כִּי טוֹב: כִּי לְעוֹלָם חַסְדּוֹ

“Give thanks to יהוה , for He is good; for His compassion is FOREVER.”

That first Hebrew word הוֹדוּ is “Hodu”. And it does mean ‘give thanks’. But, it also means ‘turkey’. I wonder if there’s a little joke in that from God.

The first people to celebrate thanksgiving likely did so earlier than we, as it was a harvest celebration at the Plymouth colony of pilgrims, with the Wampanoag Indians, and a Patuxet Indian named Squanto, who spoke English. Nearly half the Pilgrim company had died, and they’d have not had food to eat if it weren’t for the natives, so more than 90 natives and about 53 pilgrims celebrated with a great feast. No one knows what was eaten, but ‘fowl’ such as turkey may have been a part of the meal, as William Bradford wrote: “And besides waterfowl there was great store of wild turkeys, of which they took many, besides venison, etc,..” It was not until the 1840s when that Thanksgiving meal was romanticized in print that turkey became the traditional main course in northern states first, hearkening back to what may have been on the Pilgrim’s tables. But, ‘hodu’ may certainly have been a part of that early, three-day celebration of Thanksgiving, where they thanked God for having a harvest; they weren’t going to starve in the coming winter. This was likely done around the same time as the Biblical Sukkot, which is the Bible’s fall celebration of harvest. Many believe the Pilgrims knew this, and were emulating the Israelites in giving thanks for their bounty. It’s less of a reach, when one considers the monument to William Bradford placed in the cemetery where he’s buried.

The inscription in Hebrew at the top reads: ” יהוה is the Help of my life” . As erroneous as we have found the Pilgrims to be in some things, they were yet trying to return to a life of right living. They were persecuted in England as “Puritans”, people whose lives were very distinct from most. They dressed modestly [almost uniformly], spoke properly and modestly, and stood out as different. Their legacy left such an impression of ‘distinction’ in England, that nearly 400 years later I remember our British sister-in-law calling us “Puritans” when we were shocked at English thought and behavior. This distinction is why they braved the dangers of pilgrimage. They had been studying the scriptures in English, some for the very first time since 1611 when it was made widely available, and they were making real changes in their lives, according to their understanding of His Word. And William Bradford learned that God had a Name. Some of the earliest settlers in Rhode Island, just down the road a piece, were “Seventh Day Baptists” who returned to the Biblical Sabbath. Many of our earliest forebears indeed were striving to return to a Biblical life. And, regardless of what many today would think, that IS indeed why we celebrate THANKSGIVING. The 1840s was a period of ‘renewal’ of faith in America, and also of sectionalism, and it is during that time that our current idea of Thanksgiving was borne romantically. It was declared a national holiday this way: On October 3, 1863, during the Civil War, Abraham Lincoln proclaimed a national day of thanksgiving to be celebrated on Thursday, November 26, and that day became the new, national day of Thanksgiving. The only other time the nation had done so in unison was after the Continental Congress proclaimed a national Thanksgiving upon the enactment of the Constitution; but after 1798, the new U.S. Congress left Thanksgiving declarations to the states, until the Civil War. It was only after the Civil War, during another time of renewal in the South, that the whole nation began to adopt the customs printed and romanticized in the 1840s. And I do think that may have helped to begin to heal the rift between the states, and unify the country.

Which brings me back to psalm 118. It is a beautiful song, and it is actually the last song of what is called “The Hallel”. “The Praise.” In biblical customs, on the night of Passover, the Jewish people sang “The Hallel” as the last act of worship, to close out the Seder. The Hallel is Psalm 113-118; so, that last one would have been 118.

Yeshua and His Talmidim [Torah Students/Disciples] were singing this on their way out to the Mount of Olives.

Matai 26:30 “And they sang the Hallel, and went out to Har HaZetim.”

So, on His way out to the place where He would be betrayed and arrested, Yeshua would sing these verses with His beloved ones:

12They encompass me like bees; they are quenched as the fire of thorns…

13You did thrust sore at me that I might fall; but  יהוה  helped me. [remember Bradford’s tombstone?]

14 יהוה  is my strength and song; and He will become Yeshua[h] for me.

17I shall not die, but live, and declare the works of  יהוה .

21I will give thanks unto You, for You have answered me, and have become Yeshua[h] for me.

22The stone which the builders rejected is become the chief corner-stone.

23This is the one which is from  יהוה ; it is marvelous in our eyes.

24This is the day which  יהוה  has made; we will rejoice and be glad in it.

25We beseech You, O  יהוה , Hoshi’ah Nah! We beseech You, O  יהוה , make us now to prosper!

26Barukh Haba B’Shem  יהוה ; we bless you out of Beit  יהוה .

27 יהוה  is God, and has given us light; order the Khag with boughs, even unto the horns of the Mizbe’akh.

28You are my God, and I will give thanks unto You; You are my God, I will exalt You.

29O give thanks unto  יהוה , for He is good, for His compassion endures forever.

So many ‘foundational’ truths about Yeshua are in that Psalm; His betrayal is! His execution is! His RESURRECTION is! And His IDENTITY as the Foundation Stone of Scripture is! And He was singing it on His way out to the place where He would sweat blood in prayer. He was ‘giving THANKS’. He was giving thanks in the face of the worst night anyone could attempt to imagine.

That, my friends, is trust in God. That should be what the turkey reminds us of today. Hodu!


Published by danielperek

See my about page! I'm a Messianic Jewish writer, and teacher of the Torah as Messiah Yeshua taught it. I'm a husband, father, and grandfather. A musician, singer, and composer. Most importantly, a servant of the Messiah of Israel, Yeshua HaNatzri!

2 thoughts on “Hodu!

  1. I like it, had no idea they were so faith driven at the time. I suppose, in hearing the story in my youth, the focus was on the relationship between the pilgrims and the Indians, the focus of escape from prosecution had been lost.


    1. Many of the Mayflower group had actually moved to Holland, where things were more tolerant of different faith; but it soon turned to persecution there, and that’s what motivated them to go to the New World…

      Liked by 1 person

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