The Jew and the Turkey

November 24, 2016


Yes, it’s true. I didn’t always appreciate “the most wonderful time of the year.” But times have changed and I’ve changed.

Let’s start with Thanksgiving. Traditionally, when our kids were young, my real objection to Thanksgiving was that it’s on a Thursday, when Shabbos starts shortly after breakfast the next day. That’s a lot of kitchen time for someone who doesn’t like to cook, doesn’t like turkey, and isn’t looking for opportunities to overeat. And while celebrating an American holiday commemorating religious freedom may sound like a no-brainer, don’t forget, we were raising our kids differently than the way we were raised. Our overarching goal was to raise kids who would want to be observant, and we weren’t sure whether to emulate our friends who celebrated Thanksgiving or our friends who didn’t. I never did manage to come up with a real Thanksgiving tradition, other than to try to avoid cooking. Thank G-d, we now have adult children in town who love to cook, love turkey and don’t mind overeating in the name of religious freedom. This year, we even decided to celebrate together on Wednesday because some of us are going away; it is not lost on me that they also enjoy being together, so I happily take my assigned Thanksgiving job and remember that I can never be thankful enough.

Then comes the “other” holiday season. This one was tougher on my Jewish soul during the early years of observance. It was hard not to feel sorry for myself when I walked through the stores, knowing the words to every Christmas carol, also knowing that I couldn’t sing a Jewish song if my life depended on it. Nowadays I don’t read into things so much: if a cashier asks me about my plans for Christmas, I don’t feel the need to announce that I’m Jewish. But I’m not afraid to either. Plus, now more than ever, I appreciate every small gesture–mine included– that promotes peace on earth and good will to everybody. After all that humanity has been through, how could I not?

It’s a wonderful time of year indeed. And that’s even before I tap into the joy that’s on the Jewish calendar. The month of Kislev, which begins on December 1st this year, is imbued with the strength of Chanukah, the time when G-d performed open miracles on behalf of the Jewish nation– weak over mighty, small over many, pure over impure, light over darkness–you name it, He did it then and He continues to do it now.

And if I needed any further proof that G-d can actually make everybody happy all at the same time, this year, the first night of Chanukah, the 25th of Kislev, coincides with December 24th. Who knows? It could be the start of something wonderful.



  1. Reply

    Ellen Surloff

    “Overeating in the name of religious freedom.” Love it. That must be why I’ve eaten that extra piece of pumpkin pie every year!
    Happy Thanksgiving. Enjoy the time with your beautiful family.

    1. Reply

      Lieba Rudolph

      So glad you enjoyed the holiday and the post, Ellen…thanks for commenting!

  2. Reply

    helene wishnev

    Really nice Lieba. I do indeed like to celebrate Thanksgiving too. It also reminds me of my father whose birthday we always celebrated on Thanksgiving as he was never sure of the date. As we sifted through the debris on Thanksgiving Day we were acutely aware of the real meaning of Thanksgiving that Hashem in his mercy spared us and each moment of life is precious. It reminds me of something an Israeli friend said when he survived the Sbarro bombing. Now Hashem saved my life, now I must make that life worth saving. I will try to remember that when I lose my focus over some trivial matter.
    So here’s to all future Thanksgivings when the only thing roasted will be my turkey!

    1. Reply

      Lieba Rudolph

      Thank you Helene-y. May we all be blessed to realize how much we have to be thankful for!

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