Thanksgiving Shabbos

It is now over a week since Thanksgiving but we are still celebrating.

Although we all try to be equitable about sharing the holiday, most of us are lucky to have assorted parents and other relatives all of whom would enjoy having you share Thanksgiving Dinner.

Thanksgiving is one of the highlight holidays of the American year. They now claim that more people are traveling for Thanksgiving than for Christmas. Personally, I would rather cook than drive so, when possible, I have made Thanksgiving dinner for whichever children and grandchildren were available.

When one of our children made aliyah, Thanksgiving was not anyone’s mind. However, the last Thursday in November inevitably rolled around and I expected that Thanksgiving would just be another day of the year. But, the neighborhood that the children moved to was very Anglo and the spirit of Thanksgiving – of family and gratitude – was hard to give up. The new tradition that has grown up there is Thanksgiving Shabbos, a culturally appropriate transmutation of a comforting tradition.

I was born and raised in America and we are an Orthodox family. As winter gradually grips us with colder weather and the trees and vegetation lose their greenery, the twin American holiday moments of Thanksgiving and Christmas move into public consciousness. One holiday we can be part of and one we cannot. That may be part of the reason that Thanksgiving has always been a moment that Modern Orthodox American Jews have taken to it so heartily.

There are many other American public holidays. While, it is true that Fourth of July and Memorial Day are marked by parades, there is not much unity of celebration otherwise. While the working public always appreciates a day off, a barbecue and blow out sales somehow do not make for the most satisfying expression of national importance.

I was surprised, therefore, to find that the more right-wing parts of the community frequently have school or in other fashion just treat Thanksgiving as just another workday. While I do not agree with their position, I understand their extreme efforts at trying to maintain a Jewish society without the “taint” of the outside world. It is a losing battle and considering the haven that the United States has been for so many of us, it is also churlish.

I would like to suggest two main reasons for the introduction of the Thanksgiving Shabbos. I will not go into all the reasons – spelled out at great length by many others – why there is no conflict between American values and Jewish ones in this particular instance. Logic has not swayed too many people thus far. However, transmuting Thanksgiving Day into Thanksgiving Shabbos could be a mechanism to Judaize an established and much-beloved holiday.

And there is another added bonus. Too often, the holidays are a time of great stress. There are many reason and every reader can supply their own. One major problem is how to divide time with all the different parts of the respective families. All too often, there are hard feelings. However, for those who celebrate Thanksgiving with the rest of the country, there still remains the continuing option of celebrating over the next Shabbos or two as Thanksgiving Shabbos.

I have always loved Shabbos and find it the best day of the week. Adding to one Shabbos a year the status of Thanksgiving Shabbos can only make a great day better!

About the Author
Sura Jeselsohn has a background in science and is an avid gardener. Her weekly column, Green Scene, is published in the Riverdale Press.
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