Shalom Beth Israel,
How often can we say Happy Thanksgivukkah? If you’ve been following the news of this most unusual melding between Thanksgiving and Chanukah, than you know the answer, “Not often,” is quite the understatement.
While some of us are confronted with the “December Dilemma” each year, this year we have no such dilemma. In fact, the convergence of Thanksgiving and the Festival of Lights makes a lot of sense.
The words “Jew” and “Jewish” come from the Hebrew Yehuda. This was the name of the fearless leader of the Maccabees. Yehuda comes from the word l’hodot, which means to thank or to praise. Thus, someone who is Jewish is one who is full of gratitude. When we say, “Thank you” in Hebrew, we say, Todah, which is one conjugation of the word. When we rise in the morning and thank God for restoring our souls to us, we sing, Modeh ani lefanecha. And finally, in the amidah prayer, we say, “Blessed are You, Your Name is Goodness, and You are worthy of Thanksgiving.”
Giving thanks is just a part of who we are. And lest we forget, we are encouraged to give thanks daily through our prayers. While Thanksgiving is a set time to acknowledge all that we are thankful for in our lives, we are well aware that one day is not sufficient to express our gratitude for all the gifts we have. Perhaps by celebrating Chanukah--the Jewish season of gift giving--at the same time as Thanksgiving, we will not only eat many new culinary creations, but more importantly, we will express our appreciation for all the miracles and gifts we recognize in our lives.
As we gather with our friends and family in the days ahead, may we all enjoy each other’s company, may we all see the Divine in one another, and may we say “Thank You” or todah rabah for everyone and every thing that makes our lives whole.
Chag Urim Sameach - Happy Festival of Lights & of course, Happy Thanksgivukkah!
Rabbi Joshua Samuels
p.s. I hope to see you at our Chanukah party this Sunday at the Zuanich park boathouse from 1:00-3:00pm.