by Judy Gruen
Listen . . . do you hear that? Those annoying squawking sounds are the desperate cries of the nation’s turkeys, sensing doom. They know that they are about to peck their last bits of corn before they are sent cruising at an altitude of 350 degrees for four hours before landing on oversized platters for Thanksgiving dinner.
I admit that I have had mixed feelings about Thanksgiving over the years. As a purely American holiday, it’s a beaut. Once you are psychologically prepared to sit around with relatives for six hours and try not to talk about one another’s abhorrent political views, it is great to tuck into a multi-course feast and loll about on the couches afterward, secure in the knowledge that Black Friday is just hours away, and that what got eaten at the Thanksgiving dinner table stays at the table. Your personal trainer at the gym need never find out.
On the other hand, as a woman who prepares multi-course Sabbath meals each and every week, often for guests, part of me has felt I needed another holiday to cook for like I needed my kid to lose her $450.00 retainer. Again. Shabbat is our sanctuary in time from the demands of work, the lure of shopping, the challenge of finding parking in a crowded metropolis, the call of emails and texts. To step back this way each week to recalibrate our inner lives takes planning, fortitude and commitment. With all the blessings we already make in gratitude to God as part of my life, Thanksgiving could feel like a burden, quite frankly.
But this year, there was no question about it: I am making Thanksgiving and looking forward to it. In an age of growing terror attacks, we are traumatized, whipsawed by events that are out of control. We are afraid to check the news — where, who, has been struck now? Where mature, insightful and educated leaders should be we have dithering eogtists who refuse to name our enemies, refuse to take decisive action to protect us.
So I plan to make this Thanksgiving as lovely and delicious as possible. With family gathered around, now including two little grandchildren, we need this opportunity to express our thanks for every blessing we have. Primarily, for one another and the love that we share. And of course, gratitude for living in what is still a great country, where most people are kind, hard-working, and peace-loving. This country, for all its faults, provided refuge to our ancestors who fled oppression and tyranny, enabling us to live openly and freely as Jews. I have observed in recent years that as the world grows more unhinged, friends and family who are not ritually observant as we are grow in their appreciation of the Jewish ideals of family and holiday structure. They offer guidance and safe harbor in a frightening world.
This year, I’m even doing something rather unnatural for me and checking out Pinterest for ideas on how to make the table even more festive. I’ve got my eye on some mini pumpkin place cards, harvest-themed napkins and plates for sure, and perhaps I’ll even try to cut out oversized colorful paper leafs on which guests can write something they are thankful for and pin them to a corkboard. (If my more craft-conscious daughter will help me, that is.)
This year, the more thankful we are for all we do have, the better.
May all of you have a blessed Thanksgiving.
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