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Make Thanksgiving Great Again

11/26/2019 12:56:24 PM


(Click HERE to LISTEN to Rabbi Scott read this blog.)

There’s lots of talk of late regarding worries and concerns over the potential negative energy borne out of politics that might ruin our upcoming Thanksgiving meals and gatherings.  On one side, we have the “bleeding heart liberals” overwrought about the MAGA hats that might adorn the heads of family and guests, and on the other side, we have the “heartless” conservatives who know they just can’t stomach yet another “re-naming” of an American cultural icon, like “Thanksgiving” becoming “Indigenous People’s Day.”  So, let’s take a breather by way of a hint from our Torah portion this week.  

This week, we read from “Toldot,” the already oft-repeated story of sibling rivalry and an ancient version of “helicopter parenting.”  Esau is born first, Jacob second. Rebecca has heard God tell her that Jacob should be the favored one, and instructs him to dress, act and smell as much like his brother, Esau, as possible in order to trick their blind father, Isaac, into giving him the blessing of the first-born son.  It works, but not without forcing the reader into a front row seat to witness Esau’s heartbreak. However old he was at this moment (The Torah is rather vague), to have to “listen” to Esau in his sorrow, as he asks Isaac, “Barcheni gam ani Avi?”  translating quite directly to, “Daddy, isn’t there a blessing for me too?” is quite heartbreaking indeed.  Our heart is meant to break in this moment. Wouldn’t it have been enough when reading “OUR BOOK” to cheer for “OUR TEAM” and not have to be bothered by worrying about the other one?  Perhaps… but that’s not how the Torah is written. Or in modern speak, that’s just not how we roll…the Torah.

The “trouble” with Judaism is that it demands us to consider incidents, events, circumstances, experiences, anecdotes, understandings, from multiple points of view.  Judaism teaches us to resist simple, one-sided, motto-driven summaries, especially of complicated problems. Judaism doesn’t ever bestow upon us theological surety – we refrain from one-dimensional assessments, especially those that involve, well….people. 

Thus, my recommendation?  Leave your MAGA hat and your Indigenous Peoples Day t-shirt at home (both literally and figuratively).  If you wish to talk politics at the Thanksgiving table, speak about your values, not your allegiances. Seemingly disparate people find they share a great deal in common when it comes to values, even if they are worlds apart in terms of their affiliations.  

We don’t have control over how our political leaders carry themselves.  But we do have control over how we carry us. So let’s carry ourselves well, remembering that just as there are people missing from our Thanksgiving tables this year as in the past, so too one day, will we not be sitting there as well.  (Not because we’re in Cancun.)

From my house to yours, with love,

Rabbi Scott 

Sat, June 6 2020 14 Sivan 5780