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Thursday, April 24, 2014
Eight days of Thanksgiving
By Rabbi Nochem Tenenboim
Rabbi Nochem Tenenboim of Chabad of Hewlett

Everyone is already talking  about it.  This year we are going to celebrate something historic —  “The Thanksgivukkah” — when Hanukkah coincides with the national celebration of Thanksgiving. It’s only happened once before, in 1888, and  it may never happen again.  (Why? - more on our website www.JewishHewlett.com/2346876 ).

Should you make sweet potato pancakes (aka latkes) or just top your traditional potato ones with cranberry sauce instead of applesauce? Sometimes, when we are too busy with the customs or perhaps the food of the holiday, we may forget about the meaning of the holiday. All joking aside, this very rare occurrence of “Thanksgivukkah” may give us an opportunity TO THINK — to think and to thank! “Thanksgivukkah” is the time to really understand what Hanukkah is and what we are celebrating.

In 167 BCE, the Holy Land was ruled by the Seleucids, who sought to crush the Jewish spirit and eradicate religious observance. A small group of Jews called the Maccabees would not allow the Jewish spirit to be extinguished and, against all odds, they triumphantly overcame this oppression.

When they sought to light the Temple’s menorah, the Maccabees unearthed one lone flask of undefiled oil, enough to burn only one day. Miraculously this one flask burned brightly for eight days until new, pure olive oil was produced.

To commemorate these miracles Hanukkah was created. Every night we light the menorah: a single flame on the first night, two on the second evening, and so on till the last night, when all eight lights are kindled.

Just lighting a menorah may not be enough. Traditionally, most people will light the menorah at a window where it is visible from the outside. In many communities a large public menorah will be lit.

Our Hewlett community menorah will be lit at the corner of Broadway and East Rockaway Road every night of Hanukkah at 5:30 pm. We will also light a big carved ice menorah at the Hanukkah on Ice celebration at the ice rink in Grant Park on Dec. 3 at 6 p.m.

Why light outside? To show how thankful we are of the great miracles, and to give a big thanks — loud and clear.  As our sages say: celebrate the “days of Hanukkah to give thanks and praise to G-d.”

Hanukkah always is what President George Washington described about Thanksgiving in 1789 — a day of “public thanksgiving and prayer to be observed by acknowledging with grateful hearts the many signal favors of Almighty G-d.”  

So, with turkey or without, Hanukkah is and will always be eight days of thanksgiving. Happy Hanukkah!

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