First Night of Chanukah is Thanksgiving Eve
Not all of you are old enough to remember the last time the first day of Chanukah coincided with Thanksgiving back in 1861. But even those of you who still remember the good old days, you couldn’t really have eaten latkes with your turkey, since Thanksgiving had not been established until 1863. This year is our rare opportunity for a double celebration. Yes, it will happen again, but not all of us will be in good enough shape to celebrate Chanukah and Thanksgiving together some 77,798 years from now.
Seventeen years ago, my predecessor at Temple Beth Am, Rabbi Phil Aronson, approached the clergy of the two churches across the road from us, Saint Peter Catholic Church and JupiterFirst Church, suggesting the idea of an interfaith Service on the Wednesday before Thanksgiving. They liked it, and the service has been constantly growing in attendance and quality, as more than 1,000 people have come in the past few years.
When the clergy first met to plan the service they agreed on rotating the location and the preacher. Each year the Service is hosted by one of the three congregations and the clergy take turns addressing the assembly. They also agreed that the prayers and readings throughout the Service should not reflect any particular theology of religious practice. Expressing gratitude, after all, is a virtue that all of us hold in the highest regard, and that should be the general theme.
It all made perfect sense to me and I never thought that any of us would ever bend the rules, certainly not me – until this year. Chanukah, without a doubt, falls into the category of a particular religious practice. It has no place in an interfaith Service, but again – who wants to wait 77,798 years until the next time? And to make things even better, this year, we at Temple Beth Am host the Service.
I invited my friends and colleagues, Father Don and Dr. Johnson to discuss the Service. When I asked them about starting it by lighting the Menorah together, they were as excited as I was.
On Wednesday, November 27, for the first time in history, more than 1,000 people will be able to say: “A priest, a minister and a rabbi stood on the bimah of the synagogue on Thanksgiving eve, that happened to be also the first night of Chanukah…” and they will not be telling a joke. You should be one of these people.
Happy Chanukah and Happy Thanksgiving,
Rabbi Alon Levkovitz