Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Free the Thanksgivukkah turkeys!

"Thanksgivukkah" is the term coined for a very rare event happening on November 28, 2013:  This year, the first day of Hanukkah falls on the American holiday of Thanksgiving.  It won't happen again for another 70,000 years, so enjoy it now while you can!  (Plus the date also converges with a spectacular comet -- more on that below.)

"American Gothukkah" poster
designed by ModernTribe.com,
a take-off on a famous painting.
The Jewish community is certainly having a good time with it.   Search the Internet and you will find all kinds of Thanksgivukkah shirts, mugs, postcards, and other chochkes, as well as announcements of community celebrations.  (To see a gallery of shirt designs, click here.)  The Times of Israel has a nice roundup page of links, including songs and the story of a boy who designed a "menurkey" -- that's a Hanukkah menorah in the shape of a turkey.

One of my favorite images is this shirt by ModernTribe.com, featuring a Woodstock-inspired theme with "8 Days of Light, Liberty, Latkes."  Pretty clever!

Hanukkah really is about freedom, when the Jews rose up against the Greeks and re-dedicated the Jerusalem Temple to God.  Hanukkah may well be the first recorded war fought for religious freedom.  But this freedom theme also raises the issue of how "free" the Thanksgivukkah turkeys really are.  Can we eat turkey at a freedom fest when the birds themselves are not really free?

Unlike the colorful wild turkeys usually portrayed in Thanksgiving art, the turkeys you buy in the grocery store are factory-farmed white birds that have been bred to be so heavy they cannot even mate naturally, let alone fly up into trees or run through autumn fields like their wild ancestors.  Most of them probably never even see the outdoors at all, because they are raised in big, overcrowded barns.

As a vegetarian, I would urge you to consider not having a turkey for Thanksgivukkah.  In fact, it was at Thanksgiving time many years ago that my wife and I finally decided to go veg.  We had been eating very little meat anyway, and as the holiday rolled around, we asked ourselves:  Do we really want a turkey this year?  The answer was no, and has been no ever since.   The only turkey on our table will be this toy bird.

As for the holiday menu, there are plenty of delicious vegetarian foods you can serve -- and combining with Hanukkah this year makes for some creative recipes.  The Jewish Community Center of St. Paul, MN, sent out a recipe for squash latkes (instead of potatoes) along with their recent fundraiser.  I plan to try that one!

When you think about it, turkey was not the only traditional food that Native people brought to our tables.  Corn, squash, pumpkins, potatoes, tomatoes, beans, wild rice, maple sugar, cranberries, blueberries, and chili peppers are some of the foods that are native to North and South America.  So let's make this a real Festival of Freedom and let the turkeys live!

Now for the comet: November 28, 2013 is also the date that Comet Ison -- which could be the "Comet of the Century" -- will pass around the sun.  As of this writing, it is now visible to the naked eye in the dark sky, and is expected to grow brighter in the next few days.  In centuries past, such a convergence between two calendars and a comet would have been seen as an omen, for good or bad depending on the culture.  To me, it is just an interesting phenomenon.

There are 3 possibilities for what will happen to Ison in the next week or so:  1) it could burn up in the sun's corona and disappear; 2) it might break up into a bunch of glowing pieces; or 3) it may remain intact and come out from behind the sun glowing very brightly.  For more on Ison's perilous journey, visit this page on the NASA site.


Anonymous said...

Good evening Rabbi,

It's been awhile but now is as good a time as any to wish you and the family a very happy Thanksgiving/Hanukkah. I should tell you how much that one afternoon with you influenced me. These days I live in Wales, have an crazy eight year old girl (who is lighting the candles this week!) and I'm superpoor but superhappy. I'm also editor of Gwent Wildlife Trust's magazine (a volunteer job mind you) and something you said all those years ago to me popped into my head (that an old review of Andy Statman I saw on Amazon). While wandering about your garden with our TV crew, you stopped at some weed and you said how all things have their place, even weeds. This week, I was speaking with a man who suffers with a vicious intruder to local waterways called Japanese Knotweed. It is an invasive species that is tough to get rid of. I know your views, and you've influenced my thinking in such a way that I feel guilt when I lay out beer traps to kill slugs. But when it comes to a such a nasty piece of work like Japanese Knotweed, it's difficult to feel lousy about getting rid of it. Anyhoo. . . I miss speaking with you and I'm enjoying reading the blog! Cofion cynnes! Andy Green

Yonassan Gershom said...

wow, Andy, great to have an update on what you are doing :) Regarding things like knotweed, they do have a place in their original environments, but of course if they become too invasive, we have to do something about them. Same with Eurasian milfoil here (which invades MN lakes) -- people dredge it out by the tons, but it does make good compost :) So maybe that's its function now? On the other hand, attempts to wipe out milkweed in farm fields have drastically affected the population of monarch butterflies, since it is also the only food plant of their larvae. My point was, that we have to look at the whole ecology to be sure we are not making things worse instead of better.

Anyway, wishing you a happy Hanukkah also -- peace and blessings!

Hello said...

Happy Thanksgivukkah! We are celebrating that here also. :)

Jeff Eyges said...

Hanukkah may well be the first recorded war fought for religious freedom.

Except that the conflict was less between Jews and Greeks than it was between rural religious fanatics and better-educated, more sophisticated, urbane city dwellers, who had adopted some Greek customs and most likely a more liberal attitude toward Jewish observance (of course, you can see with whom my sympathies lie).

That being said, Chanukah is the only Jewish holiday about which I tend to become sentimental. I don't know why; it wasn't a big deal in my house while I was growing up. Also, I know we're commemorating a bunch of fundamentalists who killed their fellow Jews and radicalized circumcision, but oddly, I can make myself ignore that. I can also ignore the flawed history (and, to me, the unpalatable theology) surrounding Passover and attend a seder once in a while. Purim, I have absolutely no use for. Aside from the bad history and bad theology, I can't make myself ignore the fact that after 2,500 years, we're still holding onto a revenge fantasy that includes not merely killing a man's children for his attempted crime, but advocates genocide for all of his descendants. Plus, the pastries are mediocre and the costumes are worse. It's a sort of low-rent Halloween.

Anyway, I didn't come by today to bust your chops about Jewish holidays. I came by to rant about this story posted a couple of days ago to your Facebook page:

Reincarnation and the Holocaust

Have you read the article? I can't post a comment on your Facebook page because we aren't FB friends (not that we can't be, but you wouldn't want to be, as you wouldn't like me in real life; I'm even more antagonistic toward religion in general and Orthodoxy in particular than I come across as being here), but I found it extremely offensive. Sarah Rigler, whose work I've stumbled upon before, is a brainwashed finger-wagger who likes to tell other Jews how they should be living. Moreover, I don't think we've talked about this, but I see absolutely no way in which the notion of a benevolent, personal, involved creator can be reconciled with the ocean of human suffering, to say nothing of the suffering of all sentient beings. I felt Rigler’s article, presented with her trademarked tone of insufferable condescension, was an insult to the memories of those who suffered and died in the Holocaust.

I don't remember you indulging in apologetics or drawing a conclusion like Rigler's in either of your books on the subject (although it's been a while, and when I read them years ago, I was a little more forgiving than I am now).

That aside, did you try the squash latkes?

(By the way, I did post a question to your public Facebook page about the upcoming book.)