Happy Thanksgivukkah!

Happy ThanksgivukkahChanukah very typically overlaps with Christmas – that’s why for American Jews at least, the holiday has become a sort of “Jewish Christmas,” with gift-giving and a feeling of being included in the “Happy Holidays” greetings, and an occasional Chanukah song thrown into the mix with the Christmas music.

This year, however, is different. Chanukah is early (well, not really – it’s still on the 25th of Kislev, but you know what I mean) and it actually overlaps with Thanksgiving instead. There are some who say it won’t happen again for 70,000 years, but that’s not actually accurate. I have it on Talmudic authority that there is a clear tradition that says if the first NIGHT of Chanukah falls on Thanksgiving, the holiday is still called “Thanksgivukkah.” So we only have to wait until 2070 for it to happen again. If I get the biblical maximum life span of 120, I can even be here for the next one! But it is, generally speaking, a “once in a lifetime” experience.

Thanksgiving, as the name implies, is about giving thanks. It was originally a harvest festival, giving thanks for God’s bounty. And Chanukah, also as the name implies, is about rededication (the name comes from chanukat habayit, dedication of the Temple). So it’s an appropriate time to have a mash-up of things we’re grateful for on the one hand, and things we rededicate ourselves to on the other hand. So here’s my Thanksgivukkah “I’m grateful and I’m going to do more of” list…

  • I’m grateful for my family. Five wonderful daughters, each unique and special in her own way. A grandson! What a blessing, that. A wife who’s been a true partner in the adventure of life. Son-in-law, brother, sister, extended family. Many blessings in my life.
  • I’m grateful for my friends, near and far, the ones I see every week and the ones I see once a decade.
  • I’m grateful for my health. At 58, it’s something you no longer take for granted. Grateful that I can still run a half marathon, fly airplanes, ski the steep bumpy stuff, SCUBA Dive and enjoy life.
  • I’m grateful I live in this amazing and exasperating place called Israel, surrounded by history, natural beauty, a fascinating mix of people, and the public grappling with important existential questions.
  • I’m grateful for all the people working to make Israel a better place, and that in some small way I’m one of them.
  • I’m grateful for work that pays well and is interesting, that lets me work in my favorite uniform of jeans and a t-shirt and from anywhere in the world that has an internet connection; I’m grateful for my normal 30 second commute, and the fact that I can spend time working from the US, hanging out with family there.
  • I’m grateful for the opportunity to hike the Israel Trail, getting to see much of this country close up, discovering something new every day I go out on the trail. So far I’ve covered 390 miles, about 250 to go.
  • I’m grateful for the technology that enables my lifestyle.
  • I’m grateful for Shabbat, which gives me a break from all that technology.
  • I’m grateful to the Creator who has blessed me with bounty beyond what I deserve.

There’s more, but I could probably fill a book with ALL the things I’m grateful for. And I rededicate myself to continuing to learn and grow, be a better father/husband/friend, to keep trying to make the world a little bit better every day, if by nothing else than sharing a smile. Or sharing a particularly engaging picture of a cat on Facebook (not).

My “Clergy and Comedians” friends and I came up with a “Thanksgivukkah” blessing, which I share here…may your Thanksgivukkah be filled with many blessings, good food and good friends.


O Great Spirit, Who in Infinite Wisdom has brought together Chanuka and Thanksgiving. Thank You for giving Christmas a break from the Jews.

May FOX News find a new enemy in the War on Christmas (Kwanzaa is on Dec 26th , just sayin’) and may Walmart workers freely call out Merry Christmas from behind every employee food collection bin.

As we dine in the light of a menorah on kosher turkey and on latkes with a shmear of cranberry sauce, we recall two great movements for religious freedom, American and Jewish, the combination of which yielded Groucho Marx, Joan Rivers, Mel Brooks, Gilda Radner, Jon Stewart, Jerry Seinfeld and Sarah Silverman.

May we be blessed with more religious freedom and less religious certainty. May we be less inclined to laugh at others, and more prone to laughing at ourselves. May our leaders learn from our modern prophets – speaking in clubs and old films, on HBO specials and Comedy Central shows – who unite us in our humanity, humility and vulnerability.

May our tears of laughter allow us to be open and unsure, and may God bless all of us, who are just muddling through, making meaning as we can. And may our descendants celebrate the next Thanksgivika, in 77,000 years, in a world of laughter and joy.

– Rabbi Susan Silverman and rest of the Clergy and Comedians Torah Roundtable, Jerusalem, Israel. (Rabbi Ma’ayan Turner, Yisrael Campbell, Gary Rudoren, Rabbi Levi Weiman-Kelman, Cantor Iris Beth Weiner, Rabbi Barry Leff, Lauri Donahue, Rabbi Rich Kirschen, Dahlia Lithwick, Rabbi Sarra Lev)

Barry Leff

Rabbi Barry (Baruch) Leff is a dual Israeli-American business executive, teacher, speaker and writer who divides his time between Israel and the US.

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