By Freida Hecht
This year as we light the first candle of the Chanukah menorah, Jews in America will also be celebrating the Holiday of Thanksgiving. Interesting fact: The last time this happened was in 1888.
My children are thrilled because they will have no school on Chanukah this year. What a treat.
As Jewish Americans we realize that this is not a coincidence and that there is, of course, a divine connection and synergy that causes these two holidays to intersect.
The Chanukah menorahs lit all across the USA symbolize light and religious freedom; freedom to practice our faith without persecution, without prejudice, without fear. Light battling spiritual darkness, strife, ignorance, pain and suffering. The message of the Chanukah light is that even a small flame can combat the greatest darkness!
Most of all Chanukah illuminates and opens our hearts to thank Almighty God for all the blessings bestowed upon us. The blessing of living in a democratic country and being able to stand proud as a Jew and celebrate and observe our heritage.
Thanksgiving also celebrates that same religious freedom and reminds each of us to give thanks to God. The very words imprinted upon the currency of our great United States of America “In God we Trust” is the foundation of our great republic.
Having these two holidays match up gives us “CHANKSGIVING”, a double celebration, a double energy and power to really get our focus to offer thanks and acknowledge the goodness of the Creator of our universe, God. It’s a moment to share our gratitude with family and community. This coinciding of Chanukah and Thanksgiving energizes our ability to share light and inspiration to all of humanity.
As we give thanks and share the light we effect a chain reaction that will transform our world to the way it was meant to be, a world of peace, harmony and goodness.
So, whether you celebrate Chanukah, Thanksgiving or both, whether you light a menorah or you light scented dinner candles, close your eyes for a moment and whisper a few words of thanks and say a blessing for someone, anyone.
Yes, I believe Chanukah is the stuff that Thanksgiving is made up of. So off I go to stuff my menorah… I mean, my turkey, kosher, of course.
Freida Hecht is the director of education at Beth Israel of Westport/Norwalk and of the Circle of Friends, CT serving children and adults with special needs.