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Thanksgivukkah 2013: On Appreciation, and Lack Thereof

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In case you’ve been living under a rock buried in the deepest part of the ocean inside a really cool underwater cave and also wearing noise-canceling headphones, you probably know by now that this week we celebrate a once-in-a-lifetime event: Thanksgivukkah. This rare one-two holiday punch is happening because Chanukah is unusually early this year (on the Gregorian calendar, at least; it remains on the 25th of Kislev according to the Jewish calendar). The first night will be this coming Wednesday, aka “erev” Thanksgiving, and the first day of Chanukah will be Thursday, aka turkey-and-parade day.
 
Honestly, I’ve had it up to my buckled Pilgrim’s hat with “Thanksgivukkah.” I was going to write this whole bah-humbug post about it, about how I’m sick of hearing about it and if I have to read one more Facebook post about some food mash-up people are doing on Thursday (Cranberry-stuffed doughnuts! Doughnut-stuffed turkey! Stuffing-filled latkes! Turkey-shaped challah and challah-shaped turkey!) I may find that underwater cave and hide in there till it’s all over.
 
But, wouldn’t you know, it’s actually hard to get an entire blog post out of “I’m tired of Thankgivukkah.” ‘Cuz, that’s kind of all there is to say. Also, the more I thought about it, the more I realized, “Whatever. Mash-up away, people. Enjoy your crazy holiday combo.”
 
The natural extension of that conclusion was, however, that I’m stuck without a blog post. (Props to all you rabbis out there. I don’t know you do it, coming up with fresh angles on the holidays every single year. This year marks my third Chanukah with Jewish Values Online and all I’ve got is: “Chanukah! Fun!”)
 
But fret not, as I was falling asleep, mumbling to my husband that I had nothing to write about, and my audience (Hi, Mom!) would be bereft, he said, “Why don’t you write an article about my Chanukah joke?” And so I give you this blog post:
 
Since moving to Modiin, the hometown of the Maccabees, one of my husband’s favorite jokes is:
 
Q. What is the REAL miracle of Chanukah?
 
A. That people living in Modiin traveled all the way to Jerusalem. And they didn’t just stay there for one day … they stayed there for eight days! The joke is grounded in the very true reality of Modiinites living so close to the holiest city in Judaism (~ 20-minute drive) yet rarely visiting.  
 
At first I thought, “Isn’t that sad?” How can we not take advantage of living near Jerusalem? The Kotel, the Old City, history and holiness everywhere you turn! How can we take this for granted? My thoughts veered to: We need to treasure what we have, appreciate and be thankful for our gifts (hey, look, I got Thanksgiving in here also! We can now add this blog post to the Thanksgivukkah canon.) We should feel gratitude for all of our “haves”: spouses, children, family and friends, community, and yes, living near and having unencumbered access to our religion’s holy city. We have to work at not taking things for granted. Don’t be complacent and blithely skip along the latke-lined path of life. Be appreciative, take advantage of what God has given you.
 
But then, I had another thought: “Isn’t that amazing??” Because sometimes, the biggest blessing is being able to take something for granted. To have so much of something that you don’t even think twice. To decide to go into Jerusalem today. Or not. Maybe tomorrow instead. What I am grateful for, then, is the ability to take things for granted. After the destruction of the Temple, the Jews were allowed back into Jerusalem once a year, to mourn their dead and the devastation of their people. Wouldn’t they have wanted, more than anything, to stroll along the paths of their beloved city anytime they wanted? Didn’t we yearn for Jerusalem for so many years because we wanted it to be ours, our holy city, to visit, pray at, walk through, enjoy whenever we pleased? And now, we have that! Taking Jerusalem for granted is in some ways a sign of how much we have accomplished.
 
So this Thanksgivukkah I am giving thanks for having Jerusalem as part of the hum and routine of my everyday life. In the meantime … anyone want to meet for a turkey-stuffed donut?

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