Educationally Speaking – November-December 2018

Thanksgiving and Hanukkah

Racheli Morris, Director of Education

Until recently, I did not know who wrote the lines: Laugh, and the world laughs with you; Weep, and you weep alone.

It was Ella Wheeler Wilcox, a woman who saw the last turn of the century and understood the meaning and power of words. They are a special gift given to we humans to imagine, express, and communicate our deepest personal thoughts and understandings. For a long time, the prayers in our prayer books have contained bits of inaccessible words tied together to make prayer. I have been paying attention to lyrics, compositions, and stanzas to unearth deeper meaning in what is, will be and was said. We are about to go into a time of the year when our American Thanksgiving holiday is joined with our Jewish Holiday of Hanukkah. First let us look at a part of Ella’s poem, “Thanksgiving:”

Ella Wheeler Wilcox from

We walk on starry fields of white And do not see the daisies;

For blessings common in our sight We rarely offer praises.

We sigh for some supreme delight To crown our lives with splendor, And quite ignore our daily store

Of pleasures sweet and tender.

There’s not a day in all the year But holds some hidden pleasure, And looking back, joys oft appear To brim the past’s wide measure.

But blessings are like friends, I hold, Who love and labor near us.

We ought to raise our notes of praise While living hearts can hear us.

We ought to make the moments notes Of happy, glad Thanksgiving;

The hours and days a silent phrase

Of music we are living. And so the theme should swell and grow As weeks and months pass o’er us,

And rise sublime at this good time, A grand Thanksgiving chorus.

I think she is telling us, please stop, take a breath and look around with eyes that see what is, not what you want to see, but the whole picture. Every day holds a reason to be thankful, and every person has a cup filled with joy, and we must share that joy with thanksgiving, especially with family and friends. We live life as a magnificent symphony and our chorus can be one of Thanksgiving.

I hope that we take our blessings for what they are, and that in a moment like a holiday, or simply a reflective time or space, we can say a prayer of thanksgiving.

Our Liturgy, prayers – are full of thanksgiving to guide us. But the prayer said amidst the Amidah called Al HaNissim is especially poignant. “And [we thank You] for the miracles, for the redemption, for the mighty deeds, for the saving acts, and for the wonders which You have wrought for our ancestors in those days, at this time—”

In the beginning, I compared our ability to communicate as a type of power. Indeed, the Torah teaches us that words created the world. I am struck by the idea that our celebration of Hanukkah embodies the very idea of the words or miracles being timeless. “…in those days, at this time…” we have the power of sharing, and feeling thanksgiving. I wish you a wonderful pair of holidays.