Rabbi Cassi Kail
In 2013, the Jewish community experienced a rare holiday: Thanksgivikkah. As you might remember, Thanksgiving was the first day of Hanukkah, so families combined the two holidays into a joint celebration. Some of us made Menurkys (A Hanukkah Menorah in the shape of a Turkey) or experimented with pumpkin latkes (potato pancakes). While Hannukah does not fall on Thanksgiving this year, it isn’t far off. Hanukkah begins Thanksgiving weekend, on Sunday, November 28th. So let the creativity flow!
There is a natural connection between Thanksgiving and Hanukkah. Although its origin story is challenging, Thanksgiving has become an opportunity to express our gratitude for the good in our lives. Hanukkah is a holiday of appreciation for our ability to overcome seemingly insurmountable obstacles and reaffirm our commitment to our people.
On Hanukkah, we remember the story of our people, who continued to fight against the Seleucid army in the 2nd century BCE, even after they desecrated our holy Temple in Jerusalem. The Greek regime erected an idol, made observing Jewish practice illegal, massacred Jews, and converted them under penalty of death. Still, many refused. Even after it appeared that all was lost, a small army of Maccabees was able to restore the Temple, and the Jewish community could reunite. On Hanukkah, we celebrate the miracle of our survival and our ability to bounce back against incredible odds. Despite it all, the Jewish flame was never snuffed out. On the contrary, we celebrate the vibrancy of Jewish life.
Hanukkah is a celebration of gratitude for our people’s resiliency, courage, and ability to rebuild after challenging moments in Jewish history.
As the world slowly opens up, this will be the first Thanksgiving many of us can celebrate with family in two years. We focus on our gratitude for our many blessings, resilience, and the many people who contributed positively to our lives during the pandemic.
As a member of the San Pedro Faith Consortium, Temple Beth El will be cosponsoring a thanksgiving event honoring the social workers and service providers who have been working tirelessly to care for the most vulnerable members of our population. We will also hold an interfaith Thanksgiving event on November 18th in which we will celebrate the courageous faith our communities have demonstrated during the past year and a half. It is my prayer that both of these events not only offer a powerful entrée into Thanksgiving but also Hanukkah.
Whether or not you celebrate Thanksgiving with Pumpkin Latkes, or Hanukkah with Menurkys, I hope you have a meaningful and joyous holiday season.