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E-Newsletter - Thanksgivukkah!
November 25, 2013

Happy Thanksgivukkah!

Welcome to a Holiday combo that won't be happening again, according to the calendrical calculators, for another 77,030 years! Thanksgiving and Hanukah each have relatively few ritual objects and structures. They are home-based celebrations with lots of special foods and idiosyncratic family customs. And both offer profound opportunities for meaning and connection that are all too rare. Read more to enhance your celebration!

In This Issue:

Thanksgivukkah - A column by Rabbi Debra (including a link to new meditations).

The Gift of Gratitude

Gratitude: The Two CD Set - What Could Be a Better Hanukah Gift This Year?

Free Audio - Our Thanksgivukkah Gift To You

Hanukah and Thanksgiving Links

Craig’s Corner - Notes from the rebbetzin

Staying In Touch

Thank you - We are truly grateful.

by Rabbi Debra Orenstein

This year, Hanukah is, as we all know, “early.” It arrives, as usual, on the 25th of Kislev, but that Hebrew date falls on Thanksgiving, with the first candle lit the evening before.

What do we really know about timing? So often in life, we feel that things should be moving faster: When will Shabbos come? Is it date night? When will Apple TV launch? Are we there yet? When will I finally feel well?

Other times, we want everything to slow down: If only I had another week to finish this project! The summer went by in a flash. I never want this magical night to end! If the kids could just stay little forever . . .

Whether we feel that time is moving quickly or slowly, whether Hanukah seems to be early or late, the holiday comes when it comes. As my partner on the pulpit, Rabbi/Cantor Lenny Mandel is fond of saying, either emphatically or wistfully, “it is what it is.”

Hanukah comes right on time, and it demands to be acknowledged at the time of its arrival. We honor and remember miracles that occurred, in the words of the second candle blessing, “in those days at this time.”

Rabbi Zalman Schachter-Shalomi recently taught about the future of religion: “If religions are not now or soon in the forefront of protecting the earth, they will quickly become irrelevant.” Reb Zalman is approaching his 90th birthday. He is an elder – in all senses of the word. Patient and wise, he has a visionary perspective that sees both far and deep. Like many older people, he has enough life experience to take the long view. And he says that the time for Jewish environmentalism is NOW.

Like it or not, ready or not, the time is upon us – to celebrate Hanukah (a pleasure!), to give thanks (a gift!), and to protect God’s world (a mission!).

In light of the timing of this year’s holidays and messages, I have written new meditations for the eight nights/lights of Hanukah. Each meditation celebrates Hanukah, cultivates gratitude, and promotes stewardship of the environment. Each asks a question to get those gathered around the candles thinking and conspiring about the miracles they can help to create. Because… it’s time for that.

The Gift of Gratitude

Of all the topics I have taught on in my rabbinate, the one that has had the most transformative power is gratitude. Forgiveness is powerful. Shabbat is powerful. Repentance is powerful. Any aspect of Torah that we cling to can change our lives and our world for the better. In recent years, for me and for my congregants and students, gratitude has been the most frequent and potent “game-changer.”

There is a version of gratitude that is superficial, even saccharine. There is a rote recitation around the Thanksgiving table that means nothing except “can’t we get this over with and start eating the turkey?” But true gratitude, when you tap into it, is an unbelievable blessing. It is the blessing that gives you access to all your other blessings.

When you are truly grateful, you are happy, and it seems so obvious that gratitude is crucial to everything good and holy: well-being, open-heartedness, kindness, energy, love. But when you are not grateful (when you are grumpy or angry or hurting) … how do you get back to that contented place? And how do you stay there? How do you deepen and grow in gratitude?

My double-CD set addresses these questions. It is edited from live recordings of sermons, classes, speeches, and q & a sessions that were recorded between 2008 when I spoke on gratitude throughout the High Holidays and 2011, when I gave the sermon at an interfaith Thanksgiving service. Over the years I have stuck with this topic because it has many layers, much wisdom, and the power to improve your life radically and outrageously right now. – Rabbi Debra

Gratitude: The Two CD Set - What Could Be a Better Hanukah Gift This Year?
“This is the day that God has made. Let us rejoice and be glad in it!” Psalms 118:24 Scientists and sages agree on the power and benefit of gratitude. With these special teachings from Rabbi Debra, learn how gratitude can add meaning and purpose to your life. A great gift for yourself – and all those whom you wish joy and empowerment. Order the CD's on our site. Or Gift or download an mp3 version on iTunes.

Free Audio - Our Thanksgivukkah Gift To You

But Who’s Complaining? – Track One of Gratitude, the 2-CD Set (17 Minutes) Enjoy! If you find this track inspiring, order the rest of the album for more empowerment. We’ll ship it out immediately with free first class postage.

Hanukah and Thanksgiving Links

Our Holidays page is full of resources on Hanukah and Thanksgiving, including book and DVD recommendations, quotations, exercises, meditations, etc. Explore and download.

All our CD's make great Hanukah gifts.
We offer free shipping, and at this time of year will ship First Class
immediately upon receiving your order.

Craig's Corner, notes from the rebbetzin

Do you think saying “thank you” will make you feel weak? Maybe that sounds a little silly, but will it? Could it? We live in a largely adversarial culture where nearly every interaction is described in litigious or competitive terms. So does saying “thank you” put you at a disadvantage or in an uncomfortably subordinate position? And, even if you say it, do you say it with gusto, with engaged sincerity? Is it uncomfortable even in your own mind to risk putting yourself in a perceived subordinate position by showing enthusiastic gratitude?

I’m trying to figure this out because, if the modern scientists and ancient sages and Debra are right, then practicing engaged and authentic gratitude leads to tremendous empowerment, keener focus, increased happiness, better physical health, and a more cohesive and peaceful society. Yet we’re not doing it. We’re held back. As Debra describes, even around the Thanksgiving table the recitation of gratitude is often a rote exercise to be gotten through on the way to sickening overconsumption. Something’s gone terribly wrong.

What’s our resistance to expressing gratitude at a deep and engaged level? The rewards of a gratitude practice are more and more clear, but we have to get over that chasm of fear, of doubt, that need to present a façade of bullish strength in that moment when humility is called for. Gratitude is both strong and ethereal. We can recognize its righteousness, but its power too often seems unattainable. In each moment it takes a leap of faith to grasp that power.

In this auspicious year when Thanksgiving and Hanukah coincide, I urge you to make that leap. Grasp your gratitude firmly and unapologetically - with faith from our tradition that gratitude in every moment will lead to strength, not weakness. The science bears out what our tradition already tells us. In Genesis Leah named her son Judah, which comes from a root word meaning “to give thanks.” This is what it means to be Jewish, from the name “Judah.” Gratitude is the identifying core of our tradition and the very essence of who we are.

Staying in Touch

Your feedback, appreciation, and participation always give us joy. We so appreciate your continued support. Please feel free to contact us with any questions or comments about this newsletter, the website, or the books or CD's.

We would especially appreciate any reviews you might write about the books or CD's on iTunes or Amazon (books) Amazon (audio).

And check out the Calendar page for Debra's scheduled speaking engagements where you can see her live.

To contact Rabbi Debra about serving as a scholar-in-residence or speaker in your community, visit the Scholar-In-Residence page on the website.

THANK YOU - We are truly grateful.

We are deeply grateful for the community of friends and followers we have gathered through the website and this newsletter. Your support to our family in this year of Rabbi Jehiel Orenstein's passing is greatly appreciated. We are privileged to share Torah and community with so many giving and thanks-giving people.

Wishing you a joyous festival of lights and a Happy Thanksgiving!

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