Of all the foods that could have become the feature food of America’s Thanksgiving feast, it seems almost poetic that it would be the turkey. When one researches this most American of birds (indigenous to North America), one finds that the turkey is from the Phasianidae family, of the genus meleagris.

The Torah, Numbers 11, mentions this family of birds in relation to an important lesson on being grateful.

It is well-known that the Israelites in the wilderness were fed manna, a special heavenly food. What is less commonly known is that at one point the Israelites felt that they were entitled to complain.

“Who shall give us flesh to eat? We remember the fish, which we ate in Egypt freely; the cucumbers, the melons, the leeks, the onions, and the garlic: But now our soul is dried away: there is nothing at all, beside this manna, before our eyes” (11:4-6).

When Moses asks God what he should do, God, greatly angered, assures Moses that he will take care of the matter.

“And there went forth a wind from the Lord, and brought quails from the sea, and let them fall by the camp…And the people stood up all that day, and all that night, and all the next day, and they gathered the quails… And while the flesh was yet between their teeth…the Lord smote the people with a very great plague” (11:31-33).

Not only did the Israelites lack gratitude for the manna that God was already providing, but one might infer, from the text (they “stood all that day, and night and the next day”) that they did not even thank God for the quail. It was this blatant demonstration of their lack of gratitude for which they were punished by God.

From this narrative in Numbers 11, one should learn the important lesson of being thankful for everything that one receives.

*Find out how the Hebrew word for turkey can also be translated as thanks.

Copyright © 2012 National Jewish Outreach Program. All rights reserved.

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