Photo of Rabbi Ettedgui

Parashat Miketz - 5774

My friends,

Though Thanksgiving is not a 'Jewish' holiday, most American Jews have adopted this holiday fully and consider it as one of the most important annual family celebrations. Family and friends come from near and far to participate in this very special day on the American calendar, and rightly so. America has been a very unique and special country for the Jewish people. The Jewish community has grown and strived and has become one of the most important Jewish communities in our history. America has also been the strongest supporter of the State of Israel.

The American pilgrims who started Thanksgiving borrowed the idea from the Biblical Festival of Sukkot. The Torah instructs us that on Sukkot, we joyously celebrate the bountiful harvest and give thanks to G-d. The pilgrims were religious people and were grateful for the new land and the harvest and showed their appreciation by thanking G-d for their survival and their newly acquired religious freedom.

An added bonus for American Jews this year is the fact that Hanukkah coincides this year with Thanksgiving, an event that will not happen again for thousands of years.

The Origins of Hanukkah

For many years, following the Hasmonean victory over the Greco-Syrians who had occupied Israel and desecrated its Temple, the Jewish people observed the 25th of Kislev as a second Sukkot, with the Lulav and Etrog and parades in the Temple. It must have been quite redundant for the people in those years to observe Sukkot 1 on the 15th of Tishrei, and then two months later celebrate Sukkot 2 on the 25th of Kislev. Hanukkah at some point took on a new meaning and a new way of observing it by lighting the Hanukkah Menorah. So Hanukkah's original celebration was one of Thanksgiving for the bountiful harvest and religious freedom from the Hellenists. It blends beautifully with the American Thanksgiving.

We should feel very fortunate for being part of this experience - celebrating Hanukkah, originally established to make up for the Sukkot Festival, celebrating Thanksgiving which was based on the Sukkot concept of giving thanks for the land and the bountiful harvest, and Hanukkah and its new message of religious freedom and the victory of the spirit over the might of the sword.

Be Happy and Celebrate!

Wishing you and your family a Happy Thanksgiving, Happy Hanukkah, and Shabbat Shalom,

Avram