There are holiday songs I look forward to singing each year: Ma’oz Tsur when lighting the Hanukkah candles, Adir Hu at the Seder. But, last night, a few weeks before Hanukkah and months before Pesach, I had my one chance to sing publicly one of my real favorites. It brings back such warm memories of childhood, inspires me with a beautiful melody and always leaves me on the verge of tears.
Last night, the Interfaith Round Table of Washtenaw County held its 17th annual Interfaith Thanksgiving Celebration, an event I look forward to each year. This year’s program was marvelous as presenters shared songs from various religious traditions, readings from sacred scriptures and inspiring words and the gathered congregation joined in responsive readings and in two hymns. I like the 2nd one, Life is the Greatest Gift of All, but the first one is the one I look forward to year after year.
I learned it in elementary school back when, for better or worse, it was possible to sing a song with clear religious content. When I learned it, the song began: “We gather together to ask the Lord’s blessing…” At our Interfaith Celebration, different words are used to allow for comfort for all: “We sing now together our song of Thanksgiving”. But, the melody is the same one I sang as a kid on the day before Thanksgiving and the thoughts move me so deeply: that this is a time to give thanks not only for what we have in our lives but for the vision and hope that “the prophets, the teachers, and dreamers, designers, creators and workers and seers” have provided for us. And, last night, in one small way, we were all and teachers and dreamers and seers and that song, and the others brought us together to commit ourselves to working together for a better community and a better world.
I’ve been involved in interfaith work since my first week in the Rabbinate and I continue to believe that it is important, holy work. I have learned so much and received so much inspiration from my colleagues of other faiths and I know they have gained greater respect for our faith through my involvement. But, it goes beyond that. These occasions provide an opportunity for all of us to stand together and work with each other to overcome the hatred and bigotry that, sadly, religious faith can cultivate.
In the face of extremists of all faiths who bring violence and hatred to our world, I am proud to work with the Interfaith Round Table and I’m grateful that I have the opportunity to sing my favorite song with so many others of so many different faiths. It may sound a bit naive or perhaps a bit “corny” (I searched for a better word but couldn’t find it) but Thanksgiving strikes me as a “corny” holiday in many ways- and that’s why I love it so much.
Happy Thanksgiving and let us always sing together our song of thanksgiving.