Give Me a Break-Ukkah

Let me say right off the bat that there is nothing wrong with Thanksgiving, nothing wrong with celebrating it and even a quick glance at some modern-day Poskim (decisors of Jewish law) will indicate this. Not only that, the entire idea of giving thanks to G-d for His bounty is indeed steeped in our belief system.

Having said that, I must take strong objection to the latest “craze” found online and in random postings about a phenomenon about to occur–the confluence of Thanksgiving and Chanuka. An occurrence that has not happened since 1888 and will not occur again for another 79,000 years (give or take a couple years) has given birth to a newly coined phrase: “Thanksgivukkah.” Coined by a pair in Boston, they created a Facebook page and a Twitter account devoted to the phenomenon. (A quick search on Google for the word yields an astounding 360,00 results!)

Of course it is a strange calendrical oddity, this meeting of the two dates. However, that is where the oddity should end. The idea of “linking” the two dates presents numerous problems. In 139 BCE, the Jews won a miraculous battle against the Syrian-Greeks and experienced the miracle of the oil that was to have lasted for one day but, indeed, lasted for eight. The Syrian-Greeks had as their goal NOT the annihilation of the Jewish nation but rather the eradication of their customs, practices and laws that made them unique and identifiable as Jews. Assimilation was the goal, along with the outlawing of various practices. (Shabbat, Brit Milah and Rosh Chodesh) Due to the double miracle (the war and the oil) the rabbis established, starting with the following year, an annual holiday called CHANUKAH.

Chanukah is a celebration–it is a celebration of not only the miracles that occurred but of the endurance of the Jew against all odds and the unique character of the Jew. Any dilution, any linkage any attempt to “twin” it with another date (no matter the religious significance of that other date) is to dilute the meaning of Chanukah itself. The word Chanukah means “dedication.” It is through our service to Hashem and through our observing His commandments that we dedicate (and daily re-dedicate) ourselves to His service. While it sounds oh so cliché, it is indeed true: EVERY day is Thanksgiving. We do not need a special day for that. But while our dedication to Hashem is also a daily occurrence, the holiday to celebrate these miraculous victories and the endurance of the Jewish people instituted by the Sages is specific to the eight days at the end of Kislev and the beginning of Tevet.

Let us retain our unique character. Let us retain the days of Chanuka solely dedicated to the purpose of those days. Let us not feel the “need” to water down our special days by mixing in another date from the calendar–even if it is such a rare occurrence.
While it is a little early, allow me wish you all a Happy CHANUKAH–may we use the days before, during and after to truly take the time to dedicate ourselves to the service of Hashem.

(My sincere thanks goes to Danny Gewirtz for the idea for this article)

About the Author
After living in Chicago for 50 years, the last 10 of which Zev Shandalov served as a shul Rav and teacher in local Orthodox schools, his family made Aliya to Maale Adumim in July 2009. Shandalov currently works as a teacher, mostly interacting with individual students.