Thankgsivukkah is finally here! Fry up those pumpkin latkes! Light the “Menurkey”! (In case you haven’t heard, that’s a menorah that looks like a turkey.) To quote the sendup of the song, “O Chanukah,” on http://menurkey.com:
“Thanksgiving and Chanukah, come light the Menurkey
Once in a lifetime the candles meet the turkey.”
It’s actually once in a lot more than a lifetime. Today is the first time since 1888 that Chanukah coincides with Thanksgiving. And, in case you’re wondering, the first day of Chanukah won’t coincide with Thanksgiving again for another 77,798 years. So, enjoy those latkes with cranberry sauce! Also, be sure to light three candles this evening – two candles plus the shamash, or “server” candle – as tonight is the second night of Chanukah.
So, once you’ve lit the menurkey and stuffed yourself with stuffing and latkes, what should you talk about with your family on Thanksgivukkah? How about discussing what you will be doing on the last day of Chanukah next year, which also happens to coincide with Christmas Eve? No, I am not suggesting that you celebrate Chanukah and Christmas together – that’s an altogether different thing than celebrating Chanukah and Thanksgiving! I am referring to something much more exciting:
On December 24, 2014 Temple Sinai’s next congregational trip to Israel will depart for our homeland! Join us at Temple on Sunday, December 8th at noon (bagel brunch included) and meet Ezra Korman, our celebrated tour guide, who will be visiting us from Israel that day to give us the lowdown on the trip.
Our Temple Sinai trip will be a multi-generational, fun-filled adventure packed with sites to see, both and ancient and modern; direct encounters with Israelis of differing backgrounds; and an opportunity for students who turn 13 between the fall of 2014 and the winter of 2015 to become b’nei mitzvah together at Robinson’s Arch at the Western Wall. (Relatives of Temple Sinai families may become b’nei mitzvah with us as well.) This is the perfect trip for “first-timers” and “first-in-a-long timers” as well as those who have been to Israel several times before but want to see their children or grandchildren experience it with them. Whether you would be coming alone as a single individual, or bringing an entire clan, this trip is for you!
This evening when we light our chanukiot (Chanukah menorahs), be they menurkeys or regular menorahs, it will be a moment to reflect. We have so much to be grateful for as families, as a nation, as a Jewish community. But, we must not take what we have for granted. What can we do to make our family bonds stronger, our Jewish identities deeper, and the future brighter and more meaningful for ourselves and our children?
Join us on our trip to Israel next December and join us a week from Sunday on December 8th at 12 p.m. to learn more about it.
If you are considering coming on our trip to Israel and or may be joining us on December 8th please rsvp to Ronni Zlotnick, our Israel trip chairperson, at email@example.com.
Happy Thanksgivukkah (or as I prefer, “Changiving,” to you and yours).
p.s. Below please find the remarks I made about the confluence of Chanukah and Thanksgiving at the Tenafly Interfaith Thanksgiving service this past Tuesday evening at Our Lady of Mt. Carmel Church.
Thanksgivukkah: Remarks at Tenafly Interfaith Thanksgiving Service
November 26, 2013
When we Jews speak about our holidays you will often hear us remark that the “holidays are late this year” or “the holidays are early,” as the holidays shift forward and back against the Western, Gregorian calendar. But this year our unique Luni-Solar Hebrew calendar just seems downright loony. For the first time since 1888 Chanukah coincides with Thanksgiving. In fact, the first night of Chanukah is tomorrow night, the night before Thanksgiving. And here’s the kicker: Chanukah won’t coincide with Thanksgiving again for more than 70,000 years!
Now, as one can imagine, with the coincidence of Chanukah and Thanksgiving being so rare it has many of baffled as to how to observe it. Make pumpkin latkes and serve them with cranberry-apple sauce? Light a Menurkey – a Menorah shaped like a turkey? (Yes, there really is such a thing; it is America, after all, and there is an entrepreneur ready to capitalize on just about anything.) Christmas and Chanukah coming at the same time just seems to make more sense, both being festivals of lights.
But, the truth is Thanksgiving and Chanukah really do go well together.
1. They are both holidays which are centered on eating. Well, most Jews would say that all Jewish holidays are centered on eating. But, you can’t have Chanukah without a Chanukah party where you stuff yourself with latkes (potato pancakes) and you can’t have Thanksgiving without plain stuffing yourself. So, this year there’ll just be a little more food.
2. They’re both holidays which are celebrated at home with our families. We have this lovely interfaith service each year in one of our houses of worship, of course, and we have our menorah outside our Temple that we light – BTW, you’re all welcome to join us any of the 8 nights of Chanukah at 5:30 on our lawn on Engle Street – except Friday, when we will do the lighting at 7:15. But, fundamentally, both of these holidays are celebrated at home with our families, which is one of the beautiful things about them.
3. And it goes beyond the way that these two holidays are celebrated to their spiritual meaning. Thanksgiving is about that band of Pilgrims who in days of yore came to this land to escape religious persecution and find a new place where they could worship God freely and follow their beliefs. Chanukah is about that band of Maccabees who in days of yore in Israel’s ancient land fought to escape the religious persecution of Antiochus and worship freely in their old place, the Temple in Jerusalem. At both Chanukah and Thanksgiving we celebrate our religious freedom.
4. And on both of these holidays we recognize how lucky we are, how fortunate we are to live in a place where we can worship freely, and how fortunate to have what we have – not only freedom, but the prosperity to enjoy it – the abundance that if only we shared with one another as we should would mean no one would go without. An attitude of gratitude and giving is fundamental to both holidays.
5. Last, but certainly not least, is the recognition that our freedom, our prosperity, indeed all that we have is a gift from God. It’s interesting because both the Maccabees and the Pilgrims looked to the same story from the Bible, from the Torah, for inspiration: the story of the Exodus. The Pilgrims saw themselves as the new Israel, rescued by God from persecution, and led here to the new Promised Land. The Maccabees, of course, were the old Israel, and recognized in their redemption the same hand of God that had redeemed their ancestors from Egyptian bondage. Perhaps that is why the rabbis of old told the story of the miracle of the Menorah – how the Maccabees only found enough olive oil in the Temple in Jerusalem to keep the menorah lit for one day and it lasted 8 days, enough time to make new oil. It was a reframing of that age old story of that bush that Moses saw at Sinai, that bush that burned, but its flame never going out. Indeed, it is the message of both Thanksgiving and Chanukah, that God’s spirit is behind the wonders that all of us experience, both great and small. May we all recognize it for what it is and may that light never go out!