My friend is planning a seudat hoda'ah (thanksgiving feast) because his daughter recovered from a serious illness. What is the source for this custom? And other than eating, is anything else done at this meal? Any specific songs or customs?


The first documented instance of a "thanksgiving feast" is in Genesis 21:8, "And the child grew and was weaned, and Abraham made a great feast on the day that Isaac was weaned." Clearly this meal hosted by Abraham was a thanksgiving feast. The biblical commentator Rashbam compares this to the narrative related in the first chapter of I Samuel, where Chanah brought her son Samuel to the Tabernacle in Shiloh when he was weaned, along with thanksgiving offerings.

In the times of the Holy Temple, one of the sacrifices was the Todah (Thanksgiving Offering), an opportunity for a thankful individual to express gratitude to G‑d for His benevolence—specifically for delivery from a dangerous situation. The person bringing the Todah would then have a feast where he, along with his family and friends, would partake of the meat of the Todah, as well as the bread loaves that accompanied the Todah.1

Interestingly, the Midrash tells that King David asked G‑d on which day he would die, and G‑d informed him that he would pass away on a Shabbat. From then on until he passed away, at the conclusion of every Shabbat David would hold a feast of thanksgiving for being kept alive another week.2

To my knowledge, there aren't any clear cut directions exactly what to do at such a meal. But singing Jewish songs and sharing words of Torah are certainly important facets of any festive meal, especially one of such a nature.

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Rabbi Moshe Goldman for