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A Lesson on Thankfulness

Chanukah and Thanksgiving are deeply connected.

For the first time since 1888, and not for at least another 77,798 years, the festivals of Chanukah and Thanksgiving converge. It is a rarity that invites us to take a closer look at the underlying message of both, the common theme they both share.

Thanksgiving is a story about a strenuous journey to escape religious persecution for freedom in a new land, a free land, and the Divine providence that carried those refugees through their plight.

In a nutshell that’s Chanukah, as well: a narrative deeply embedded in the collective Jewish psyche of how a small band of heroes fought back against religious oppression in their own land, earned their freedom and thanked G-d for the miracles.

Notwithstanding the fact that, in America, most holidays have lost their original significance for most people. With Thanksgiving, we still identify with the plight of those Pilgrims. Most of us, after all, are descendants of those who fled to this side of the planet seeking a new future free of the oppressive restrictions of the old world. And when we think of America, we still think of a land of promise and liberty.

So Chanukah and Thanksgiving are deeply connected, and both elicit from deep within our souls the cry summed up so well by MLK Jr. "Free at last! Free at last! Thank G-d Almighty, we are free at last!"

And although Thanksgiving is a national holiday, not a religious holiday, it is ultimately a story about the oppressed thanking G-d for the gift of life and liberty.

And why is the G-d factor that important?

Thanking G-d affirms you feel an affinity with whatever it is you believe is behind this whole existence of ours. You feel that there is some sort of interaction going on here. You feel that this super-being, this transcendental oneness -- as strange as it may sound, actually cares...about you!

It says that caring doesn’t just make the world go ‘round -- caring is the reason the world is here to begin with.

So this Chanukah/Thanksgiving season let us all be thankful for the blessings we were gifted. But most importantly let us become G-dlike ourselves, by caring, and by being and bringing blessings to others.

For all Chanukah related questions and information visit www.chabadrh.org/chanukah

Rabbi Fajnland can be reached at Rabbi@chabadrh.org