by Rabbi Wendy Spears
These earrings are created by the artistry of my friend Susan at Yontifications.com. She calls them “When Worlds Collide.” Here’s what she says about them: “Chanukah and Thanksgiving together, again. We’ve waited 114 years and now it’s here! Now available, for that once in a lifetime experience.” It will be another 76 years before Chanukah and Thanksgiving coincide with each other exactly like this.
I love that title – When Worlds Collide. It certainly feels like that to me as a Jew with a spiritual and cultural practice that differs from the average American. More and more I feel like a salmon swimming up stream. It is challenging to continually make Jewish choices that set me apart even from other Jews. I truly love the richness and beauty that living Judaism brings to me and my family.
The irritation that I’ve heard expressed among people about this Chanukah-Thanksgiving combination is understandable if one thinks of Chanukah as the Jewish Christmas. Really, Chanukah can’t even come close to the extravaganza that Christmas has become. I’d like some separation between the celebration of two holidays that I enjoy, too. But I don’t feel nearly as put out as others seem to be. In some ways, it’s convenient for me this year since my older son is away at college. He’ll be coming home for a Thanksgiving break, so I’ll enjoy observing Chanukah with him rather than without him.
Really, Chanukah and Thanksgiving are the same holiday anyway, at least from a Jewish perspective. When the Maccabees recaptured the Temple in Jerusalem from the Assyrian Greeks and rededicated the Tabernacle, they were preparing to celebrate the fall harvest festival of Sukkot. Thanksgiving is that celebration of the fall harvest, secularized.
I see this once-in-a-lifetime event as an opportunity to teach again about the importance of standing up for Judaism. We are a people that appreciates the differences between our Jewish culture and the American culture that surrounds us. It is a time to be grateful for the opportunities of America and the freedom we have to celebrate our uniqueness. We stand for the relationships that we create with one another and the stories we tell when we gather around a table of delicious food. We value the conversations and variety of opinions shared, illuminated by candles and refreshed by wine. Truly, this is a situation for which I’m very thankful.
So, forego the mashed potatoes this year and eat some yummy potato latkes with your turkey. Happy Thanksgivukah!
Rabbi Wendy Spears is a community rabbi in Los Angeles. Find her at http://www.rabbiwendy.com