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No Surprise Thanksgiving

11/19/2019 01:19:41 PM


Thanksgiving!  For most of us, it is a time to look forward, whether we are in or out of town, to gather with family and friends.  For many, this is an “official” time of year, not any less important than gathering for the High Holy Days or Passover.  It is historically for Jewish families, (at least as far as America is concerned), a very welcomed, secular holiday that doesn’t challenge notions of the “kosherness” of Jewish participation in holidays, borne out of ancient superstitious practice.  There are actually quite a few opinions out there that strongly suggest that the holiday of Thanksgiving was modeled after Sukkot, our season of thanks and praise.

Thanksgiving is the American holiday most appealing to people of all faiths, backgrounds and life experience.  It is the time of re-membering.  It is the time of re-connecting to our past and how we got here.  It is the time of filling our tables, our plates and our stomachs with the physical manifestation that our parents, or grand-, or great-grand- or great-great-grandparents’ dreams have come true.  That we do indeed live in a world, despite its obvious failures, in which we are free.

So!  Here is my prayer (and a little bit of advice) for you this Thanksgiving.  You can dive in deep to these notions of gratitude and joy and love and faith OR you can dive into the deep pool of resentment, regret and recrimination that far too often, family gatherings can conjure up.  It is your choice!  And please allow me to be clear, it is not up to your family member to ensure that your Thanksgiving does or does not go well.  We all know that it is so much easier to hold “THEM” accountable for your happiness at the “Turkey Table,” but why?  Answering the “Why?” is much more complicated; for now, please allow me to answer the “How?”  (At least, the how to manage it otherwise.)

Here is the deal. Being “surprised” is a great thing when it comes to birthdays, winning a scratch off ticket, bumping into a long-time, distant friend in a far-off place where you never would have imagined you’d see each other.  These kind of surprises do make the adventure of life very exciting. 

HOWEVER, surprise isn’t helpful on Thanksgiving.  It should come as no surprise that your parent/sibling/in-law/cousin/nephew/niece/one of your loved one’s friend who was adopted into the family years ago, is going to say or do something that rubs you the wrong way.  Why?  Because he/she/they have been doing this/saying this same thing or acting in this same way or provoking you (often unintentionally) in this same manner, literally, for years. 

So DROP the SURPRISE – more than likely, they’re going to do “it” again.  Why?  Because he/she/they always do and always have.  Think of the energy you could save if instead of allowing yourself to get stuck, to get poked, prodded or instigated, instead of stewing, ruminating, fixating, or perseverating, when they do that “voodoo that they do,” what if you just breathed and offered thanks?

Thanks?  Yes, thanks and gratitude that you are there, and so are they, and they are providing you with practice for how to live a life that is less reliant upon the short-lived (but often intense) energy that we experience when we once again are “surprised” that he/she/they haven’t changed!  But when we stay in “surprise mode,” guess what?  We haven’t changed either. 

What is Thanksgiving about really?  It's fueled by the essential humanness of consciousness and conscience – that we can choose HOW we respond to a person, a situation, a set of issues.  Most especially, when we know, full well, that they are coming down the pike! 

So this year, let’s make Thanksgiving free of surprise when it comes to all that we already know about each other sitting at or around the table.  Perhaps build in a surprise of your own – perhaps try and surprise them (and yourself) by swimming away (and not taking the bait).

From my table to yours, Happy Thanksgiving!

Rabbi Scott

Sat, June 6 2020 14 Sivan 5780