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Thanksgivukkah (Thanksgiving falling on Chanuka)


Rabbi Ari Shvat

Kislev 25, 5774
This year, Hanukkah and Thanksgiving overlap. This rare event causes a Buzz, at least in the United States. A special turkey Menorah was designed and the holiday has a special name: Thanksgivukkah. Does this event have meaning in Judaism? Thanks
The issue of Jews celebrating Thanksgiving at all, is a problematic one. We must remember that our presence in exile, even comfortable and relatively hospitable galuyot like America, are a punishment and no reason to party (as we say in Musaf, “Mipneh chata’einu galinu meArtzenu”). As the Chatam Sofer writes, one shouldn’t build a strong or new house in chutz laAretz, because we should mourn the fact that we are even there, and to the contrary, should dream of building our permanent homes in Eretz Yisrael where it’s a mitzvah, not a curse (Resp. Chatam Sofer, Y.D. 138)! The Torah curses us, “Among these nations (in exile) you shall find no ease neither shall your foot find a place to rest”, (Dvarim 28, 65), and our rabbis add: (Eichah Rabba 1, 29) “…for if they would find a place to rest, they would not want to return (to Eretz Yisrael). See the Or Samea’ch’s Meshech Chochma, VaYikra 26,42, who warned well before the Holocaust, those who feel that Berlin is their Y’rushalayim, a terrible storm will eventually uproot them and remind them not to feel “too German” or “too American”, for that sake. Moslems and Christians can be Americans, for they are religions- and not nationalities: e.g. if one isn’t religious he simply isn’t Muslim or Christian. But in Judaism, even an atheist is still Jewish, for Israel/Judaism is also our nationality, not just our religion. True, America, from their point of view, may consider Jews temporary living there as “one of them” and that’s very kind, but that clearly doesn’t change Judaism’s objective and eternal definition of how we Jews are meant to identify ourselves. Our rabbis explain that Moshe was not buried in Israel, as a punishment for identifying himself as an Egyptian (Shmot 2, 19) and not as an Israeli, even though he truly grew up in Egypt and never was in Israel, because all Jews wherever they are, should always identify themselves as Hebrews from the Land of Israel (Dvarim Rabba 2, 8). Accordingly, most poskim like R. Moshe Feinstein (Igrot Moshe Or. Ch. V, 20), R. Ephraim Greenblatt (cited in next source), and R. Menashe Klein (X, Yor.D. 116, who feels it may even be an isur d’oraita to do as the gentiles), opined that one shouldn’t celebrate Thanksgiving at all, for America is not our home, and her holidays are not ours. Accordingly, even if one wants to thank God for the temporary relatively-safe haven in America, it definitely shouldn’t be seen as a Jewish holiday, and how much more so, there is absolutely no significance to the fact that a holiday of some other nationality may coincidentally and rarely fall on the holiday of our nationality/religion (just as there’s no significance that Xmas falls out even more often on Chanuka). Except for the significance that, like the case of Jonathan Pollard, it’s an opportunity to help many Jews clarify their real identity, their real homeland, and their real holidays, when tremendous “thanksgiving” to God is truly necessary and obligatory, for example, Yom HaAtzma’ut, Israel Independence Day- when God expressly gave the Jewish nation our real and permanent homeland. With Love Of Israel, Rav Ari Shvat
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