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thanksgiving is cancelled?

11/19/2020 11:06:43 AM


Rabbi Jeffrey Myers

After careful consideration, we made the difficult decision not to travel to New Jersey to spend Thanksgiving with our daughter and her husband. It was not an easy decision, filled with plenty of “what ifs” on both sides of the equation. In the end, we felt that the potential to either be asymptomatic carriers or somehow come down with COVID-19 as the numbers continue to rise exponentially outweighed the benefits of being in the same physical space with family. While the decision is laced with sadness, and while no one can predict their future, this additional bit of hunkering down increases the potential for future Thanksgiving gatherings. Some might think that this is little reward after eight months of assorted degrees of quarantine, as all of us are weary and want our old lives back.

Just as I’ve learned from 10.27, you cannot return to your old life, but must learn to integrate the now into your current life and remain open to what the future might become. That is indeed the only way to deal with the trauma that all of us are experiencing right now. But it does not mean that Thanksgiving is cancelled.

Many thought the same thing for Passover, as large gatherings for both Sedarim were not safe. That did not mean that Passover was cancelled. It meant that we had to create new ways to celebrate it with our family that were unanticipated. We held a virtual Seder the first evening, and it was truly wonderful to see family from around the country gathered at their tables as we simultaneously went through all of the steps of the Seder. We would not have been together in this manner had COVID-19 not struck, so the pandemic provided the encouragement to reach out to all of our families to celebrate Passover together. Despite the inconvenience of everyone trying to talk at the identical moment, I felt that it was indeed a true celebration. Coming off the joy of that evening, our congregation offered a community Seder to anyone who wished to join, following the dictate from the Hagadah: Let all who are hungry come and eat. We had over 100 participants, many of whom were single individuals that had no Seder to attend. In the end, I felt most gratified and humbled to have the technology and capacity to bring together strangers to celebrate Passover as one virtual community. By literally welcoming them into my home through my computer, I tried to model the teachings of Abraham and Sarah, our first ancestors, who taught us how to be good hosts.

We recognized that the template is already there for Thanksgiving, and it is the next best thing. Just stop and think for a moment about the incredible thought and creativity that had to go into bringing to consumers hardware and software that enable us to see and hear each other through devices. While science fiction writers have daydreamed about this and put pen to paper, visionaries have made the leap to reality for us. That fact by itself demands that we pause and give thanks.

 It is easy to think of a virtual Thanksgiving as a consolation prize, but I do not. I think of it as a gift. How blessed I am to live in a time where this is possible, and for that I am so thankful. Therefore, on Thanksgiving day, I will be giving thanks. I pray that you can as well.


Wed, February 24 2021 12 Adar 5781