Sanford Speaks Out is the latest blog sensation written, edited and produced by Sanford D. Horn, a writer and educator. Sanford will write about issues of the day covering a myriad subjects: politics, education, culture, sports, religion and even food.
Wednesday, November 20, 2013
Twice as Thankful This Chanukah
Twice as Thankful This Chanukah Commentary by Sanford D. Horn November 20, 2013
For the first time in our lifetimes Chanukah commences on
erev Thanksgiving, to note it as we in the Jewish community would say. While
this intersection is indeed rare, it is worth noting the similarities between
these two holidays that have become so over-commercialized as to have virtually
lost all original meaning – giving thanks to G-d.
Giving thanks to G-d, albeit for different reasons, is
what grateful colonists in a new land did and what the People of Israel did as
well. Colonists who traversed an ocean to seek new freedoms, among them,
religious, and Israelites who fought a war to retain their religious freedom
gave thanks for the gifts bestowed upon them by G-d.
In Judaism, we actually celebrate a thanksgiving in late
summer-early fall, with the observance of Sukkot – giving thanks for the
gathering of crops as well as the thankfulness for G-d’s protection during the
40 years in the desert/wilderness.
Our American Thanksgiving celebrates the long journey
escaping religious persecution in search of religious freedom; thanking G-d for
the miracles of surviving the harsh winter of 1620-21 and the eventual
prosperity. The premier celebratory feast, organized by Governor William
Bradford, lasted three days, included 53 colonists and 90 Wampanoag Indians.
They enjoyed swan, duck, goose, venison, turkey, shellfish, lobster, stuffing,
corn, and pumpkin.
Chanukah, meaning dedication, observes the victory in war
by the Israelites led by Mattathias, father of the Maccabees, in the second
century BCE, around 139 BCE. The Maccabees defeated the Antiochus-led
Syrian-Greeks who also failed to Hellenize the Israelites. The Maccabees-led
Israelites fought for, and won their religious freedom.
Chanukah, the Festival of Lights, is a minor festival on
the scale of Jewish observances, lasting eight nights and eight days due to the
other miracle – that of the oil lasting eight nights when it was expected to
barely survive one. The two miracles of the victory over a people with presumed
greater military might and the longevity of the oil are praised in prayers of
thanksgiving to G-d.
The menorah (candelabra) is lit each of the eight nights
by adding a new candle, thus brightening, not dimming the light, as the lives
of the Israelites became brighter with the rededication of the Temple.
Today, Jewish people around the world light the menorah
in celebration and thanksgiving for the “great miracles that happened there,”
to quote the letters and their representations on the dreidl enjoyed by
children and even adults alike.
And while gift giving is a modern Americanized addition
to the celebration of Chanukah, (an unfortunate secularization of Chanukah) it
is important to tell the story every year so that it is never forgotten, as
well as enjoying the traditional treats of potato latkes (pancakes) and
sufganiyot (jelly doughnuts) – fried in today’s representation of the
This year, on the 150th anniversary of
President Abraham Lincoln declaring the Thanksgiving holiday during the height
of the Civil War in 1863, incorporate American Thanksgiving with Chanukah and
enjoy pumpkin-cream sufganiyot along with potato latkes adorned with cranberry
applesauce, or even butternut squash-sweet potato latkes.
I am thankful to be an American and just as thankful to
be Jewish. Let us give thanks to G-d for the gifts He has given us, and let us
Sanford D. Horn is
a writer and educator living in Westfield, IN.