A Thanksgiving/Hanukka message

The real message of both holidays, is that we human beings must always speak out against intolerance, no matter what form it takes.

Thanksgiving and Hanukkah 390 (photo credit: Buzzfeed)
Thanksgiving and Hanukkah 390
(photo credit: Buzzfeed)
Four years ago at an Anti-Defamation League dinner honoring Steven Spielberg, he chose the occasion to deliver his own commentary on the meaning of the holiday of Hanukka which was set to begin this year on Wednesday night.
He noted that Hanukka lacked the lengthy storylines of a Purim megillah (i.e. the Scroll of Esther) and Passover haggadah (i.e. the order of service of the holiday evening meal or Seder), or the dramatic impact of a Red Sea parting. Spielberg asserted that fabled movie director Cecil B. DeMille never considered making a film titled “The Greatest Chanukah Story Ever Told.” But, Spielberg added, it was through the very smallness of the Hanukka miracle—a small cruise of oil lasting for eight days—“that God manifested His power and His love.”
In our time, filled with electronic gadgetry and constant distractions, it is easy to overlook small miracles or to acknowledge “how much of our world is still mired in the past,” he said. Indeed, the old evils of bigotry, prejudice and anti-Semitism have found new homes in cyberspace.
The response to these evils is education. “Intolerance is not encoded in our DNA,” he said. “What is encoded is our curiosity and the ability to learn quickly. We Jews have always had a passion for great stories and I myself have been galvanized by Jewish history, especially when speaking out against intolerance,” he added in closing.
This year, as the first day of Hanukka and the Thanksgiving holiday coincide (which will not happen again for 70,000 years) the parallels are clear. The Pilgrims, newly ensconced in a foreign land with few resources of their own, witnessed their own miracle as they managed to survive for a year in the New World. To them, this success was also the manifestation of God’s power and His love, so it was natural for them to join together in a meal of thanksgiving.
But Thanksgiving and the celebration of that miracle along with Hanukka and its unique celebratory aspects are only the icing on the cake, as it were. The real message of both holidays, for the Pilgrims who came to America to escape religious persecution and Hanukka which marks the victory over a government intent on eliminating all Jewish ritual practice, is that we human beings must always speak out against intolerance, no matter what form it takes.
As families gather this week to mark both these holidays, it would be good to remember the real message of the observance so that while we enjoy the food and the camaraderie we also remain aware of God’s expectation of his children. Let the words of Micah 6:8 ring in our ears to remind us of our obligation to act justly, love mercifully and walk humbly with our God.
May we all celebrate in the bosom of our families basking in the benevolent light of the holidays.