I hate Thanksgivukkah.
There, I said it. Feels good.
For those wondering what I’m referring to, this is the only year for like a billion jillion years that Thanksgiving and Hanukkah will coincide. So people have been really having a lot of fun with it, making videos, sharing recipes about how to combine the two holidays, etc. It’s become a real trend.
Honestly, I feel pretty bad about this admission. A lot of my blogging and online “colleagues” have been doing some of the above. Some have asked me to share their stuff, and I feel so bad that I really really really don’t want to. So, I hope one day they’ll forgive me for this blog post.
The interesting thing is that I’ve never been the kind of person to poo-poo something just because it’s popular. I always hated when my friends (back when I had friends) would say things like, “Oh man, I totally liked Green Day before they got popular. Geesh.”
But this is different.
Funnily enough, though, I couldn’t figure out exactly why it was so different until quite recently.
See, during every Jewish holiday, if you’re like me and have a bunch of dorky orthodox friends, Facebook’s newsfeed fills up with these things called “d’var Torahs” (literally, “words of Torah”. Meaning lessons about the holiday, basically).
I always got kind of bored with these things. I mean, so many of them are the same things you hear every year.
Or if there aren’t dvar Torahs, there are just little nice thoughts about the holiday. Thoughts like “Hanukkah taught me this, this, and this.”
And then you’d have those annoying bloggers who would share “10 Hanukkah Photos”. Silly bloggers.
And, all that stuff, I just always got bored with a bit, as much as it was nice, as much as it was a reminder of the holiday coming up.
But this year, with Thanksgivukkah coming around, that changed for me.
Because Thanksgivukkah is perhaps the most empty, marketing-esque, diversionary thing I’ve ever witnessed orthodox Jews get so excited about.
It literally has no meaning. When people write about it, it’s only in regards to the food. Or trying to somehow find parallels between the pilgrims and the Maccabbees (the Indians were the victims, folks!).
There is literally no substance whatsoever to this discussion. Literally nothing that will make you want to improve your life or change how you conduct yourself on a day to day level. Nothing that will make you think. It’s pure emptiness. High fructose corn syrup. Cotton candy.
But, interestingly enough, because of that emptiness, I had a realization about those “boring” dvar Torahs I would hear every year.
I suddenly missed them with all my heart.
Okay, perhaps they were repetitive. Perhaps they were a bit dry. Perhaps they weren’t all great works of creative genius.
But they had meaning. They had substance. If you really think about them, they will make you want to improve your life.
And that’s when I was finally reminded of why I had become an orthodox Jew.
For the meaning.
When I was young, as a secular Jew, holidays were “nice”. They were moments to spend together with family and friends. But there wasn’t ever any depth to them. I’d learn a lesson or two. But the lessons were empty. Nowhere as deep as the Taoism I was learning. Or the philosophy I studied.
I became an orthodox Jew when I realized just how deep these days could be. When I realized that every moment is a chance to grow, everything we do, everything we read, everything we engage in, can be a chance to elevate the world as well as ourselves. Every moment can have meaning.
So, it was interesting: the fact that Thanksgivukkah has bothered me so much has actually almost felt like a blessing. It was a wake up call. A reminder of why I’ve chosen to live life I’ve taken upon myself.
Because it can be so easy to take it for granted. It can be so easy to complain about the little things. The fact that its creativity still has so far to go. The fact that it can be so hard to fit in if you’re a square peg. And on and on.
There are things to complain about. Cultural things, things that aren’t the way we wish they would be.
But in a world where meaning is seen as secondary; where it’s more important that the creative world entertain us than change us; where holidays are more about culture than connecting with the deepness of the world; where Thanksgiving and Hanukkah could ever be seen as compatible…
I’m grateful for the life I chose.
So thank you, Thanksgivukkah, maybe you served a purpose after all.