Posted on 11/29/2013 @ 02:20 PM
Every year, it seems that Jews try to extract a Jewish message or make a cultural connection with Thanksgiving. My wife’s extended family celebrates Thanksgiving with matzah ball soup and brisket, alongside the turkey and all the fixings. Last year my six-year old asked what our plans were for the second day of Thanksgiving. Rabbis and Jewish institutions often capitalize on the theme of thankfulness, and tie it to a Jewish teaching or the work of the particular organization. In many ways it’s become the “additional” holiday on the Jewish calendar. Perhaps it’s because after a heavy Jewish holiday period in September and October, Jews are craving another helping by the time November rolls around. And let’s be honest, a holiday that is centered around a big, multi-course, hearty meal is our specialty. Right?
This year is literally a once in a lifetime experience as Thanksgiving and Hanukkah collide on the calendar. So, if you’ve never felt the Jewishness of Thanksgiving in the past, you’ll certainly feel it this time around. It last happened in 1888 and won’t happen again for almost 78,000 years. Therefore, enjoy those latkes dipped in cranberry sauce!
As holidays that celebrate religious freedom, there is no shortage of sermons or articles this week for rabbis and educators to draw that powerful linkage between Hanukkah and Thanksgiving. What many might not know, though, is that Thanksgiving is actually more closely aligned with Passover, not Hanukkah. Through this courageous journey, the Pilgrims and early founders of our nation actually saw themselves as if they were the Israelites leaving Egypt. Yes, the Pilgrims were religious people but the Exodus story is arguably one of the most influential historical events of all time. How do we know for sure that the founders of this nation were so enamored by this story? Here are a few historical examples: 1. The Mayflower Compact was an attempt to establish a temporary, legally-binding form of self-government. Some say that the framework for the document was actually designed after the Ten Commandments. 2. Salem, Massachusetts was named after the city of Jerusalem. America was the Promised Land for the Pilgrims. 3. One of the initial designs of the great seal of our country actually included the Exodus scene. The Atlantic Ocean was like the Red Sea for the Pilgrims.
As we gather with our friends and families this week, let us not only reflect on the pilgrims and demonstrate our gratitude for what we have, but also ponder the greatest freedom tale of all time.
Pondering and connecting is Adam Tennen, Director of Field Operations for the Mid Atlantic Hub