As we first realized during the High Holidays, the Jewish calendar is very early with respect to the secular calendar this year.   Rosh Hashanah came only days after Labor Day, Simchat Torah was in mid-September.  And now it is time for a very early Chanukah – the first day (and 2nd night) coincides with Thanksgiving.

There’s been lots of buzz about this online – I’ve seen recipes for Latkes and Turkey, there’s a Thanksgivukkah Facebook page, and a 9 year old in New York has created and is now selling a Menurkey - a turkey shaped menorah.

What I haven’t seen mentioned as much though is that these holidays share a common theme. What we celebrate on Chanukah is religious freedom.  And we are here today to celebrate Thanksgiving in this country due to that same idea of religious freedom that caused our ancestors to immigrate here in the first place.  The relatives I talked about last month didn’t make it here, but their children (including my grandmother) did.  Because of their quest for freedom, here I am living in a country where I am quite thankful that I am able to celebrate both Chanukah and Thanksgiving on the very same day. 

When Shawn was young, I heard an idea for celebrating Chanukah that I embraced.  I don’t really remember where I read about it, quite possibly it was in the Messenger.   Instead of giving presents each night, the idea is that you give your children money each night: half of which they keep and half of which they donate to some charitable organization.  This idea was a big hit at my household – both for Shawn and for me.  Instead of receiving small things that he didn’t really want just to have something every night, now Shawn had money each night.  He could plan what he wanted to buy as well as research and plan how he would share his wealth. From my point of view, I could stop looking for things to buy “just because” and also teach the invaluable lesson of giving to others.  (Not to mention, I liked the appropriateness of giving gelt, a most traditional Chanukah gift.)  

I think this year the Food Pantry would be a good choice for the tzdekah portion of our Chanukah Gelt. 

Shalom & Hag Sameach!

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