Q. I’m a Baal Teshuva that belongs to a family still in the process of Kiruv and becoming close to Hashem. We are a closely united family and we try to maintain seriously that Shalom Bait.
We usually, as far as I can remember, celebrated Thanksgiving as a day of the family rejoicing together.
I have a number of questions regarding Thanksgiving.
1) Can I join my family on this occasion? It would be very detrimental if I won’t.
A. It is interesting to note that, some argue that Thanksgiving may have “Jewish” roots. The Pilgrims based Thanksgiving on the Torah (Bible), in which G-d commands us Jews to celebrate the Harvest Festival. This festival is called Succot, the Festival of Booths, which Jews have been celebrating for several thousand years.
Igros Moshe (E.H.:2: 13:, O.H. 5: 20: 6) in his early Teshuvos rules that it is prohibited to celebrate Thanksgiving. Nevertheless he maintains that if one is observing a proper Simcha such as a Bar Mitzva or a wedding, one cannot prohibit the celebration if it coincides with Thanksgiving. However he adds that Baalei Nefesh (people with a soul) should be even then stringent.
On later Teshuvos, (Y.D. 4: 11: 4 and 12), he became lenient and opines that it is not prohibited. Likely, it had become clearly a non-religious day, that was not sponsored by the church.. He warns that one should not make that day an established holiday that we must keep.
Similarly, on Y.D. 4: 57: 11, he reiterates the rule of not adding new Yomim Tovim and celebrations to our calendar. This principle is echoed by many other Poskim (Minchas Yitzchok 10: 10, Yabea Omer O.H. 6: 41: 6, Teshuvos Vehanhogos 2: 721 and others). See next question
Rabbi A. Bartfeld as advised by Horav Shlomo Miller and Horav Aharon Miller Shlit’a