Prologue: The Talmud (Berachos 32b) notes that if one sees a person Daven and not get an answer, he should return and Daven again as it is written Kaveh El Hashem Chazak V”Yametz Leebecha v’Kaveh el hashem.
When one makes a request from a friend more than once, s/he runs the risk of being “overbearing” or a “nag”. However, the Gemara is telling us that Hashem specifically waits for it. Why such a contrast in the repeated request style between Hashem and the human being?
Rav Shimson Dovid Pinkus explains that when it comes to requests from our fellow man, the act of asking is merely a means (a “Heichee Timtza”) to getting what one wants. Until the request is fulfilled, the person merely repeats the request until s/he gets his/her way. However, when it come to Tefilla, the action of Tefilla and its composition is an ends on its own. It is the means whereby one unites with Hashem (See further Ramban, Berashis 25:22). Such a restatement is desired by Hashem - in fact, he waits for it especially from the Tzaddikim.
Another crucial difference is that in Tefillah, the role of gratitude is paramount. This week's chaburah examines a national gratitude. It is entitled:
Is Thanksgiving Mutar?
One of the great debates that tends to circulate during this time of year concerns the question of whether one may celebrate thanksgiving. The question stems from the debate as to whether thanksgiving is a Chukas HaGoyim or not.
The torah (Vayikra 22:23) notes the importance of not following the ways of the non-Jews. The Rambam(hil. A.Z. 11:1) interprets to mean that one should differentiate himself from the non-Jew in his actions, thoughts and deeds. The Sefer HaChinuch(262) highlights that the reason for the Mitzva is to distance the Jews from non-Jews.
Maharik (Shoresh 88) carries this idea forward into the realm of Halacha. He notes that non-Jewish practices that have no reason, must not be observed by Jews as their undetermined origins might find root in Avoda Zara. This seems to be the accepted custom in Halacha circles today - namely that those things that have a reason may be practiced so long as the reason is not rooted in Avoda Zara. If the practice has unknown origins, the concerns of the Maharik are still very much in play. The Vilna Gaon (Y.D. 178:7) limits this leniency to cases of practices that are Jewish in origin and later stolen by the non-Jew.
The question of what status Thanksgiving has in history comes to light in this regard. Rav Moshe Feinstein is cited three different ways in his thinking about thanksgiving. On the one hand, he seems to allow thanksgiving celebrations (Iggros Moshe E.H. II:13) but strict on a Baal Nefesh in his participation therein. Elsewhere, he noted that one may participate in a thanksgiving but should not make it a requirement (Y.D. IV: 11, 12). But in the more recent texts, Rav Moshe is more strict (Y.D. V:30) and notes that the non-Jews have no basis for the practice and therefore one needs to be strict about following the practice B’Davka.
HaRav Yisroel Belsky assumes that if such celebration were to be an expression of patriotism, it would be more acceptable. However, this does not seem to be the case.
Maran HaRav Schachter (Nefesh HaRav 231) quotes Rav Soloveitchik who felt it was not a problem of Chukos HaGoyim to celebrate thanksgiving dinner. Moreover, Rabbi Rakeffet-Rothkoff notes that Rav Soloveitchik actually celebrated Thanksgiving in his sister’s home with a dinner and the full trimings.
The question of attending a thanksgiving parade directly results from this discussion: If one were to treat the day as a day of chukos hagoyim, then the parade and attendance at it would be forbidden. However, if it is a secular day, then the parade is no different than any secular (Veterans) parade. Rav Doniel Neustadt felt that although not forbidden it is better for a Jew not to attend (Halachically Speaking 8:8). Rav Belsky adds that if a child were to attend, one would not need to stop him/her.