It is a cliché by now that we live fortunate lives. While no life is without its share of troubles, most everyone reading this bulletin article can create a long list of personal blessings which would tempt the majority of humanity to break the tenth commandment.
Among those many blessings is an American institution which evolved from Sukkot. It is the holiday of Thanksgiving, and it is notable in the Agudas Achim community for three things (well, two if you are a vegetarian): turkey, football and our annual interfaith service. I will never forget the night two years ago when we joined in joyous worship at Trinity United Methodist Church and then returned with our Torah scroll to our new sanctuary in the company of our neighbors. And even though I am the only member of the clergy still serving any of the congregations involved (they all left under happy circumstances!), the warmth of that evening is still palpable whenever our members meet.
This year, that service takes place at our other partner house of worship, Westminster Presbyterian Church, on the corner of Cameron Mills and Summit. As usual, it begins at 8:00 pm on erev Thanksgiving, Wednesday night, November 26. Come feast on the plentiful affection among our congregations. And please remember the custom of taking a collection for the benefit of chaplaincy services at Alexandria Hospital.
The next day, you can eat your turkey with gusto (or, if you are out of gusto, with stuffing). When you are finished, you will be left with skin and bones and the organ meat you have been advised not to consume. You will throw them away. As you do so, remind yourself to double check that you have signed your universal organ donor card. As we mentioned in synagogue on National Donor Sabbath, November14, should you, God forbid, face tragedy, it can be turned into someone else’s rescue. Those parts of you which would be discarded, however respectfully, can instead preserve life for another.
I learned that being a donor is actually the third mitzvah in all of Torah, just after procreation and shepherding the earth. It was Adam’s rib which gave life to Eve, a gift of self which ensured the future. More than 50,000 patients in the United States are awaiting transplants, in a sense the gift of Eve back to Adam.
We give thanks for what we have, and we give thanks for what we are. And especially we give thanks that in times of turmoil and uncertainty, we can share both spirit and life with others, though we are but skin and bones.