Editorial: A Moment So Close

The news is gloomy these days, for sure, which makes it even harder to look for those morsels that ought comprise our Thanksgiving-season gratitude.

Domestically, political types seem more desirous of destroying their opponents than creating governing coalitions. Moral scandals à la Penn State serve mainly to remind us of the most vile of human tendencies. The economy threatens to break through, then sags under the weight of recessionary pressures.

The international front isn’t much better. We cringe every day that Iran moves toward nuclear weaponry. We worry incessantly (and rightly so) about Middle East instability and the constant global relations campaign to demonize Israel. And lest we think the American financial picture is depressing, just take a gander at Greece, Spain, Italy and Company for a little inverse pick-me-up.

Our children, or at least those who are of sufficient age, must look at this mash that their parents have delivered unto them and wonder, what the heck are we supposed to do about it? The faces of the Next Gen present a grim visage about their prospects and those of the world in which they will age.

Beth Shalom Cemetery ad

It’s critical, but insufficient, for us to remind them that things have been worse. Stories of the gruesome past – world wars, Holocaust, Great Depression – don’t really provide solace. They are undoubtedly crucial life lessons in remembrance of people loved and lost, and must continue to be taught from one generation to the next, in perpetuity. That humans have survived such atrocities hints at a generalized sense of hope, but does not itself deliver the goods, does not cause us to stare them squarely in the face.

So what does? Why, three things we experience at Thanksgiving time, that we can place above all else – faith, family and friends.

At this nondenominational but highly spiritual holiday, we have the opportunity as Americans to look directly upon each other – not by text or by Facebook, at least whenever possible – and together render our appreciation for bringing us to this point in life.

It’s a powerful moment, one that very personally and potently delivers up life’s blessings. Sometimes it takes the shape of a traditional nuclear family. Thanksgiving tables at a food shelter might provide a reprieve from hunger and homelessness. Yet others may bring unconventional communities together to share in the commonality of purpose for our existence.

Who gathers is almost beside the point. What’s imperative is that no matter one’s religious proclivities, he or she can momentarily be insulated from the perils of the world while simultaneously rejoicing with loved ones.

It’s true that Judaism provides ample opportunities outside of this non-Jewish holiday to recognize our spiritual and familial selves. It has often been noted that the Jewish festival of Sukkot has several elements in common with the multifaith holiday of Thanksgiving. But this particular holiday, this one time of the year, allows us to rejoice in commonality with others, to find the best of ourselves as Jews, as Americans, and as part of the greater human condition in a way that melds faith with those we hold most precious.

Thus it is that while we’re happy for those who have jobs and can provide for themselves and their families, we’re quite sad that the economic realities of Black Friday and the holiday retail season are imposing on Turkey Day this year. By creeping toward the obvious eventuality of full-day shopping on Thanksgiving, we are basically sending a message that not even the one day of multifaith quietude and family bonding is safe from the perpetual pounding we collectively take from the world outside our doors.

By the time you read this, the holiday may well be over, and the bustle of the daily grind will have reasserted itself upon your life. We sincerely hope and trust that you were able to sit with loved ones, look around the table, and utter thanks for those beliefs and people whose existence fills your heart and soul. We have scant time and opportunity to do so in this world and we ought take every chance we can get.