Jewish World Review Nov. 24, 2004 / 11 Kislev 5765
Grace, gratitude, and G-d
My four-year-old daughter recently learned to say grace at mealtimes. I taught her the same little prayer my mom taught me in childhood:
G-d is great
G-d is good
Let us thank him for our food
By his hands we all are fed
Give us L-rd our daily bread
At first, my daughter questioned the need for reciting this strange passage. "Why do we have to thank G-d ?" she wondered. "To show that we are grateful for our daily bread," I explained.
"What is 'grateful?'" she asked. "Being appreciative for what we have," I answered.
"But I'm not eating daily bread," she argued in between bites of macaroni and cheese. "It means whatever fills your tummy each day," I clarified.
In typical toddler fashion, my daughter is now absolutely fanatical about her new routine. Not only must we say grace before every meal, but also before each snack. And anytime we have a drink. And anytime her baby brother gobbles Cheerios in his car seat. Failure to give thanks to G-d is met with swift retribution. Our daughter has no qualms about chastising us in public at restaurants, airports, or Starbucks:
"Hey, stop eating! You forgot to say grace!"
Despite the embarrassment it sometimes causes, I love her unrepentant zeal. It reminds us not to take for granted our too-infrequent gestures of daily thanksgiving. It reminds us to be humble. Following her lead, we must all bow our heads and fold our hands and shut our eyes and shout a full-throated "Amen!"
The snobs of secularism will no doubt disparage such simple-minded expressions of piety. They call us "Jesus freaks," "Bible-thumpers," and "fundies." They accuse us of being "weak" and of suffering from a "neurological disorder." They consider us such a threat that they have sought to expunge even the most innocuous references to thanking G-d in the public schools.
When Garwood, N.J., student Kaeley Hay wrote a Thanksgiving poem mentioning the Pilgrims' gratitude to the Lord, according to the Newark Star-Ledger, skittish administrators initially removed the word " G-d " from her piece:
Leaves are falling out of the air,
Piles of leaves everywhere.
Scarecrows standing high up with the corn,
Farmers harvest in the early morn.
Pilgrims thank [blank] for what they were given,
Everybody say ... happy Thanksgiving!
Here in my home state of Maryland, according to the Annapolis Capital, "Maryland public school students are free to thank anyone they want while learning about the 17th century celebration of Thanksgiving - as long as it's not G-d ."
True to the religio-phobic conception of educational "diversity," Maryland public school officials have turned Thanksgiving into a multilcultural harvest devoid of its spiritual essence. Students are taught that Pilgrims had a "belief system," but nothing further. Not to worry, though. "The Pilgrim Story is read in Spanish and English," Alfreda Adams, principal at Mills-Parole Elementary School in Anne Arundel County where 70 Hispanic students attend, told the Capital. "We make sure that we celebrate all cultures."
Such politically correct muddle-headedness explains why Maryland students can't learn Pilgrim prayers in public schools while the town of Hamtramck, Michigan, feels free to blast Islamic prayers over public loudspeakers five times a day.
Once an unabashedly pious land, we have been transformed into a nation of historically clueless ingrates embarrassed about our heritage, afraid of offending all newcomers, and more committed to inculcating a sense of entitlement over a culture of gratitude. Abe Lincoln's Thanksgiving proclamation of 1863 rings truer than ever:
"We have been the recipients of the choicest bounties of heaven. We have been preserved, the many years, in peace and prosperity. We have grown in numbers, wealth and power, as no other nation has ever grown. But we have forgotten G-d . We have forgotten the gracious hand which preserved us in peace and multiplied and enriched and strengthened us; and we have vainly imagined, in the deceitfulness of our hearts that all these blessings were produced by some superior wisdom and virtue of our own. Intoxicated with unbroken success, we have become too self-sufficient to feel the necessity of redeeming and preserving grace, too proud to pray to G-d that made us!"
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