By Laura Seymour
Chanukah + Thanksgiving = Thanksgivukkah! Thankfully it is all over, but shouldn’t the messages continue all year and all through our lives? Over the past weeks, I have read more on the Internet about these two holidays than I thought was possible to write. After reading, wondering and thinking, I hit delete on most, but one I kept was by Joshua Ratner. Here is the message (shortened) to lead us through the year and beyond.
Thanksgiving is the quintessential American holiday for gratitude. It is a day for giving thanks for the bounty we enjoy in our lives. Gratitude, of course is an important part of Judaism. A famous Jewish saying from Pirkei Avot 4:1 is “Who is rich? One who appreciates what one has.” We are encouraged in the Talmud to recite 100 blessings each day (BT Menachot 42b).
But Chanukah is not primarily about gratitude. It is about (re-)dedication. Gratitude is (at least within Judaism) inherently passive, a mental process of reflection and appreciation, of self-cultivation. Dedication is about taking action, about embodying values, about doing what is necessary to enable a life of sacred meaning. This lesson of dedication, of action in pursuit of the holy and the good, is one which all of American society would do well to receive.
Of course, action in pursuit of the holy, unmediated by gratitude, can lead to zealotry. But gratitude unmediated by dedicated action equals mere platitude. The duality of gratitude and dedication is what makes “Thanksgivukkah” a truly special holiday.
Chanukah + Thanksgiving = Thanksgivukkah: let’s not wait another 70,000 years before we take the opportunity to commit to gratitude and dedication on a daily basis.
Shalom … from the Shabbat Lady,
Laura Seymour is director of camping services at the Aaron Family Jewish Community Center.