For many years, we have witnessed the overlap of Christmas and Chanukah, or “Chrismukah,” but to tell you the truth, that winter holiday mash-up is getting kind of old. This year, on November 28, we get the rare opportunity to jazz up the holidays with the never-before-seen merge between the first day of Chanukah and Thanksgiving. For the first time in our lives, and for the last time in over 70,000 years, we will get the opportunity to enjoy the once-in-an-eon celebration of Thanksgivukah.
Truth be told, Thanksgiving and Chanukah are really not much different. They both celebrate freedom of religion and thankfulness for all the important aspects of life. Although it does not pertain directly to Judaism, some consider Thanksgiving to be like an honorary Jewish holiday because it celebrates the same values as Judaism. In fact, there is a Torah portion called the Thanksgiving-offering. This portion states that when someone has survived a hazardous journey, such as a long sea voyage, he or she is to make a food offering which must be eaten for a number of days to give thanks for the safe return. Some people believe that the pilgrims modeled the first Thanksgiving feast after this Torah portion.
On any other year, Chanukah and Thanksgiving would be celebrated separately in small groups of friends and family, but this year, all the members of the Jewish community can come together to celebrate the holidays at the Los Angeles Thanksgivukah Festival on November 29. If you are not already feeling as stuffed as the turkey from your Thanksgivukah feast the night before, then throw on your pants with the stretchiest elastic waistband and head to L.A. for your final taste of Thanksgivukah. This post-Thanksgivukah festival is said to include live music, crafts and a whole lot of delicious food. It is truly a once-in-a-lifetime experience that you do not want to miss.
Jewish families across the globe have already begun planning for the ultimate festival of lights, love and especially food. It is no secret that the members of the Jewish community are very passionate about food, myself included. The majority of our holidays take place around the dinner table. That is why we have taken advantage of this incredible opportunity to compile the most delicious menu items from each holiday, making the first-ever Thanksgivukah medley.
Some typical Chanukah foods include: latkes, challah bread, applesauce, brisket, noodle kugel, matzo ball soup, gelt, sufganiyot and just about any other fried food you can imagine. We may not have the healthiest holiday menu, but at least we are emphasizing the importance of oil in the story of Chanukah.
My family, along with many others, will be looking forward to incorporating our favorite Chanukah meals into the classic Thanksgiving feast. I am especially eager to taste the very first sweet potato latke with cranberry sauce and sour cream. Some other menu ideas include cranberry applesauce, challah-apple stuffing, roasted turkey basted in Manischewitz wine, raisin cranberry kugel, pumpkin doughnuts and much more.
The Thanksgivukah table will certainly be piled with food, but the decorations are what really bring the room to life with holiday spirit. There are many ways to decorate your house for Thanksgivukah. You could make a menorah out of miniature pumpkins and even paint them gold. Another great idea is to make dreidels out of actual acorns.
Dreidel is a fun game to play with everyone. In the game, you spin the dreidel and try to get it to land on the Gimel (ג) as many times as possible. The goal is to collect as much gelt as possible. Whoever ends up with the whole pile of gelt is the winner. Not only does the game of Dreidel educate kids on the perks of gambling at a young age, but it also makes them even more hyper, due to the large consumption of chocolate gelt. Kids love to spin the dreidel, and parents love the game even more, because it keeps their kids from bugging them all night and asking when it is time for dessert. The game is a great bonding experience during the holidays and this year, players will get to play with a dreidel made from an acorn.
Thanksgivukah is a great twist on our typical Chanukah celebration. Thanksgiving and Chanukah both stress the importance of giving thanks, so on this holiday, let us focus on what is really important in life, so we can make this Thanksgivukah a holiday to remember.
Menorah: History of a Symbol
By Binyamin Kagedan/JNS.org
From the Chabad House to the White House, there are few more ubiquitous symbols of Jewish presence than the menorah.
From its first mention in the book of Exodus, the menorah has pervaded the literary and visual culture of the Jewish people, predating the Star of David as a uniquely Jewish insignia by at least a millennium. In fact, one rabbinic tradition suggests that the emblem on David’s shield was not a star at all, but a menorah! While the star is the centerpiece of Israel’s flag, the menorah was chosen as the nation’s coat of arms, and large, ornate menorahs grace both the Knesset and Ben Gurion Airport. Countless Jewish organizations, schools and synagogues weave the menorah image into their logos, and many have taken the word as their names. What is the story of this potent symbol, and why has it captured the hearts and imaginations of the Jewish people for so long?
Most people, including U.S. presidents, come across the menorah primarily on Chanukah. The technical name for the eight-branched candelabras lit each night of Chanukah is chanukiyah, a modern-Hebrew word. The word menorah is used colloquially for these ritual objects, but technically refers only to the seven-branched golden oil lamp meticulously described in God’s instructions to Moses regarding the building of the Tabernacle.
References to the menorah appear throughout the Bible, though is it not clear that it always looked the same, or that there was always just one in the temple; I Kings tells that Solomon had ten golden menorahs made for his temple. Nevertheless, there is ample indication that a menorah existed in one form or another throughout the First and Second Temple periods. The iconic image found on the Arch of Titus in Rome, depicting the menorah and other temple objects being carried away as the spoils of Roman victory over Judea, confirms that a seven-branched menorah was a part of Temple worship up until the end. Yet the whereabouts of the final menorah of the Second Temple remain a great mystery.
In his beautifully written work, The Tree of Light: A Study of the Menorah, L. Yarden suggests that the concept and form of the menorah are likely to have derived from the ancient mythological idea of the Tree of Life, found in different forms throughout the cultures of the ancient middle east. Images of sacred seven-branched trees guarded by cherubic figures can be found on Persian pottery dating back to 2300 BC, well before the centralization of Temple worship in ancient Israel. The almond tree, which is native to Israel and has special significance in Jewish lore and ritual, may have been the original inspiration for the menorah’s upward sloping design. It is quite possible that the menorah represents a blending of the Tree of Life idea with another important Israelite symbol of the divine presence, the luminous, ever-burning bush encountered by Moses. Indeed, the tradition surrounding the menorah tells that it was tended to day and night by the Temple priests so as to stay continuously lit, the original “Eternal Light” found in today’s sanctuaries.
Whereas, Yarden explains, the Star of David is never mentioned in canonical Jewish texts, nor does it appear on Jewish monuments before the Middle Ages, the menorah image can be found wherever Jews lived since the fall of the Second Temple, all across Europe and Asia. Synagogues built between 200 and 700 CE in Israel and beyond commonly sport menorahs carved into stone reliefs and laid into floor mosaics. Menorahs also adorn large numbers of Jewish gravestones from the throughout the post-Temple period, both within Israel and at various locations around the ancient Roman Empire: Sicily, Sardinia, Malta and Milan, as well as places in Spain, Portugal, France and Greece. Yarden’s book offers dozens of examples of the centrality of the menorah in Jewish art and architecture past and present, including vivid photographs of original ancient pieces.
Jewish thinkers through the centuries have been drawn to the power and beauty of the menorah image and its effortless fusion of the natural with the man-made, of form with light. To Zechariah it was beacon of the future redemption of Israel; to Josephus it represented the seven known planets that illuminate the cosmos; for Philo it manifested the light of divine wisdom; in the Zohar, it holds the primordial light of the ein sof, from which all being emanates; for Herzl, a metaphor for the possibility of Jewish national renaissance. Today, the menorah continues to capture the imaginations of rabbis and laypeople, artists and thinkers, religious and secular, an enduring symbol of eternal hope.
Binyamin Kagedan has an MA
in Jewish Thought from the Jewish
Theological Seminary of America.
There will be many menorah lightings around Orange County. Temple Beth Sholom’s Chanukiah Lighting at the Orange Circle will take place from November 27 to December 5 at 6 p.m. Congregants and friends will gather at the northwest corner of the Orange Circle to light the Chanukiah nightly. From 6 to 6:15 there will be schmoozing and sufganiyot, and from 6:15 to 6:30 there will be the Chanukiah lighting, Chanukah blessings and song. Check our website for details of this and other Chanukiah lightings in the OC.
Small Prices, Big Smiles:
Chabad at UCI’s Fifth
Annual Toy Drive
By Hannah Schoenbaum
During the holidays, kids typically tear through the wrapping of their presents, excitedly play with their expensive, new toys for an hour or two, then go about their lives, forgetting those precious toys ever existed. Little do they know that there are children all around them who have never been privileged enough to play with a toy of their own. Chabad at UCI hosts an annual toy drive to give toys to all the local children whose families do not have the money to provide them with lavish presents during the holidays.
This year will be the fifth year that the Chabad has hosted a toy drive on the UCI campus. It will take place on November 19 and 20 on Ring Road. This toy drive is unique, because it is conducted by the students in the social action group and does not require people to bring any of their own toys.
Every year, the student volunteers drive to the dollar store and pick out a couple hundred toys that they would have liked when they were young kids. Then they take the toys to the college campus and set up their very own holiday toy “shop.” That way, the participating students, professors, teachers and local families do not have to go through the trouble of bringing their own toys. All they have to do is go up to one of the tables, pick out a toy and choose which charity they would like to help. They can even write a friendly note to attach to the toy of their choice. The simplicity of this method is easy for both the volunteers and the participants.
Volunteers enjoy setting up their booths with festive holiday decorations and tasty treats. The toy drive is always pleasing to the eye and grabs everyone’s attention. Some students will even stay up the whole night before, baking cupcakes and other delicious snacks to give to participants and promote the toy drive.
All toys are only one dollar, and that is a small price to pay if it means that one more kid will be smiling this holiday season. The toy drive makes it very accessible and inexpensive for students to do a mitzvah and it creates a positive feeling on campus. Anyone who donates gets to choose which charity the toy will benefit. In the past couple of years, the toy drive has assisted charities such as the UCI Santa Ana Medical Clinic and a group of children living in motels.
A few weeks after the toy drive is over, the volunteers deliver the toys to the charities in person. Last year, the social action group decided to use the extra money they earned to throw a little party for the kids living in the motels. Some of the students read stories to the kids and gave out their toys and holiday snacks. When the students gave the toys they collected to the kids, it touched their hearts to know that they put a smile on a child’s face. The committee members had such an amazing experience that they would love to throw a party for the kids again this year.
In the past, the toy drive has been a big success. Last year, the social action committee donated around 300 toys to local charities. The goal for this year’s toy drive is to collect more than 300 toys and put smiles on the faces of all the local kids in need. Giving back to those in need is a mitzvah that improves the lives of many people. Anyone and everyone can touch the heart of another human being; they do not need a big amount of cash, just a big heart. “When we are positively impacting people’s lives, that is when we can really attain true happiness,” said Co-Director of Chabad at UCI, Miriam Tenenbaum.
It is amazing how many people get involved in the toy drive. One of the best things about this project is that it brings the community together and shows that the people of Orange County care about making a difference. Volunteering to help organize this toy drive educates students on the benefits of helping those in need.
This project gets students in the spirit of giving and makes them realize just how privileged they are to receive presents during the holidays. Anyone willing to volunteer is always welcome, and it is a great experience to get involved in such an important, meaningful project. The toy drive is a wonderful chance to lend a helping hand. Remember that just one dollar can put a smile on a kid’s face and positively impact the greater Orange County community.