Oct 9, 2017

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The Thanksgiving Visitation

The Thanksgiving Visitation

“Blessed are those who mourn for they will be comforted” (Matthew 5:3)

In my opinion our faith is enhanced by faith-related legends. According to the Webster Dictionary a legend is “a story coming down from the past, especially one popularly regarded as historical, although not verifiable.” (bold italics added) Legends may or may not be always strictly biblical, but they are important, as they teach our children virtues we want to them to learn. Saint Nicholas and Robin Hood are other famous examples of virtuous people in legends.  Hassidic Jewish rabbis have given us legends, too. To understand this story you need to understand two new concepts. First:  What is a “shabbos goy”?   Because Orthodox Jews are not permitted to work after dusk on a Sabbath, shabbos goys are employed to help prepare food and serve dinner, etc. during the Sabbath.  Second:  What is a “tzadik”? The rabbis teach that God has appointed 36 “tzadiks” to serve Him in the world. Tzadiks   behave like angels, but they are mortal. Acting for God they a) help hold evil at bay; b) report directly to God about what is happening on earth; c) have supernatural powers, so that with the approval of God they may intervene to help others; d) and finally, they are willing to suffer (and in extreme cases they are even willing to die to save others.)  Tzadiks are found in the Talmud, in the Kabbalah, and the rabbis say in Genesis, chapter 18 in which three unusual “men” appeared to Abraham and Sarah. Christians usually have assumed that these three “men” were angels.

Our devotion tells an ancient legend and then asks you to ponder questions about the story. Because Thanksgiving is a more relevant holiday for Christians,  I have changed  the setting from its traditional Passover setting  to Thanksgiving and I have also made sure that the Thanksgiving dinner is celebrated after dusk on  a Friday Sabbath evening.

Matthew and Anna were a Jewish couple; Anna was in her mid-40s and had experienced a very disappointing prolonged period; for years she had been trying to get pregnant but remained barren.  Her mother had also died of breast cancer that year.  Now it was getting close to Thanksgiving. As they planned for Thanksgiving they decided to invite not only their large extended family, but also  a newly arrived Muslim family that had not only just immigrated from Jordan, but who had experienced  having their  new  mosque fire-bombed.

Anna realized that she would need the help of a sabbos goy on this important holiday and she thought,    “Why not hire Noor (Arabic for Light), one of the elderly Islamic women in the family to help?”   During the meal Noor served; when she was not needed serving, Noor organized the food. Matt and Anna’s family and the invited Islamic family were having a wonderful time sitting around the festive table. Then near the end of the meal Anna’s cousin, Rachael, who walked with the use of a cane, decided to help bring some used dishes to the kitchen. There came a horrible crashing sound; Rachael had accidentally bumped against a pile of china, sending the dishes to the floor. Rushing into the kitchen Anna, the hostess, saw pieces of her china (a wedding gift from her mother) shattered all over the floor. Not wanting to accept blame herself, Anna’s cousin blamed the elderly shabbos goy for the accident and Noor covered for her by accepting the blame.   Then Anna comforted Noor and forgave her. Noor swept up the mess she hadn’t made.  At the end of the dinner Noor put away the uneaten food and washed the dishes. Anna, as a gesture of kindness, paid Noor and did not withhold any funds because of the broken wedding china.  Nine months later, Anna bore Matthew a beautiful child. It was a miracle!     

Study Discussion Questions:

  1. How did Matthew and Anna respond at Thanksgiving to a very disappointing year? Would you have felt thankful to God in this situation? What do you think they still might be thankful for?
  2. What acts of kindness, generosity or forgiveness did Anna perform?
  3. Who do you think the tzadik was? Why? Were you surprised?
  4. If you thought the woman in the kitchen was the tzadik, why might I have described the woman who served as the shabbos goy as elderly? Islamic? Why from an immigrant community?
  5. What does this description tell you about my own conception of whom God might call to serve Him?
  6. Instead, if I had chosen to set this legend tradition in a Christian home and made the family the Troyers, a North American Christian family, besides some minor recasting (as Christians don’t use shabbos goys), do you think I have the moral authority to re-tell this legend in this way? Why or why not?  Might not God choose to use someone else in the kitchen as His tzadik? Perhaps, the answer depends upon whether you believe that all the promises God made to Israel also apply to Christians. (Read Col.3:12-14)

Relevant Scripture to Consider:

  • “Be joyful always; pray continually; give thanks in all circumstances” (1 Thess. 5:16-18)
  • “Your generosity  will result in thanksgiving to God” ( 2 Cor. 9:11)
  • “Forgive and you will be forgiven” (Luke 6:37)

 

This ancient Hassidic Jewish legend has been told by rabbis and others for hundreds of years. Every telling of this legend is unique, as the legend is re-shaped by the story-teller. I, Heather Whitehouse, am the author of this version of the legend.

I also serve as the Ontario Branch Chaplain, The King’s Daughters and Sons, Autumn, 2017.

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