We each have moments when we step back and take stock. Opportunities afforded to us because the year has turned one full cycle and we, clay touched by holiness, are allowed a glimpse into the essence of our lives.
A significant birthday.
2 years of sobriety.
25 years since ordination.
3 years since I came out to my family.
Each of these moments transcends time, allowing us – like Adam HaKadmon “in the beginning” – to see clearly the past and our present. They invite us to imagine the future.
Our Jewish holy days, set in the Torah or by rabbinic decree, invite a similar accounting. These holy days cycle back annually, calling us to recall who we were and who we are becoming now.
Rosh Hashana, as the New Year begins, invites us to count our blessings.
Yom Kippur calls us to balance the accounting of our ma’asim and averot.
Pesach, a new beginning, invites us to recount the freedom which we once had, then lost, then with God’s help, reclaimed anew.
Each of these holy days turn us inward to the essence of our lives, and then subtly force our gaze and focus outward to the needs and concerns of our people.
Even the unique convergence of Chanukah and Thanksgiving – Thanksgivukkah? ChanTHANKSukah? Tur-Lat-Key Day? – moves us through the same eternal cycle.
For many, the beauty of the Chanukah-Thanksgiving pairing is that it moves us away from the popular narcissistic “gimme-gimme” culture (gimme presents, gimme food) instead turns our focus outward. We find ourselves being especially thankful for the food, the family surrounding us and the blessings that uplift our lives. If only we could harness those warm fuzzy feelings and transform them into a force for tikkun.
That’s why I’m particularly excited about the relatively new venture called #GivingTuesday.
You know about Black Friday and Cyber Monday – two days, designated in American retail culture for conspicuous consumption and for getting deals. Giving Tuesday — the Tuesday after Thanksgiving, the Tuesday in the middle of Chanukah — is a day when we are invited to give to others to act to create a better brighter world.
I am pleased that the Central Conference of American Rabbis is inviting you to share your blessings – and tzedakah – on #GivingTuesday. The CCAR strengthens and enriches the entire Jewish community and plays a critical leadership role in the Reform Movement through its work by fostering excellence in Reform Rabbis, unifying the Reform Jewish community through the publication of liturgy, providing essential support to rabbis – professionally and personally, and offering important resources to congregations and community organizations. Services to the Reform Rabbinate, in-turn, enhance connectedness among Reform Jews by applying Jewish values to the world in which we live and help create a compelling and accessible Judaism for today and the future.
We will light the lights of Chanukah. We will offer our thanks on Thanksgiving. Let’s transform our warm feelings into real action by supporting an organization which helps us rabbis bring light into the world.
Happy Tur-Lat-key Day!
Rabbi Paul J. Kipnes is the spiritual leader of Congregation Or Ami in Calabasas, CA.