Sunday, November 10, 2013


How can I repay Adonai for all God’s bounties to me?
~Psalm 116:12

This year we celebrate a holiday that will never come around again in any of our lifetimes: Thanksgivukkah!  Alright, we all know that is no more than a very silly American notion.*  Nevertheless, it has led me to think very seriously on how the holidays of Chanukah & Thanksgiving intersect beyond Manischewitz-Brined Turkey

There are many aspects that both holidays share: the family gathering, the remembrance of historical moments, distinctive food traditions.  Most holidays, however, share these basic aspects. Chanukah and Thanksgiving differ in many ways as well: Thanksgiving is a celebration of ecumenicalism; Chanukah recalls our fight against assimilation.  Thanksgiving is a late autumn holiday, meant to mark the bounty of our harvest; Chanukah is an early winter holiday, reminding us to appreciate the light that permeates even our darkest days.  Thanksgiving comes with handprint turkeys; Chanukah comes with fire.  For very good reasons, we tend to parallel Thanksgiving to the Pilgrimage Holidays: Passover, Shavuot, and – in particular – Sukkot, as these three are the “thanks for the harvest” holidays in the Jewish year cycle (and because the founding fathers modeled Thanksgiving after Sukkot!).  But Chanukah?  How does military victory and an oil miracle and gambling connect to Thanksgiving?

For over 2000 years Chanukah has been marked by more than candles and oily food and rejoicing; Chanukah has been marked by Hallel.  The Hallel Psalms (psalms 113-118) are the collection of psalms that express our praise and thanksgiving to God.  [Just for the record, Chanukah is the only non-pilgrimage holiday upon which we recite the full Hallel.] Every Chanukah we recite Hallel to thank God for the great miracle that happened in the Land of Israel – a miracle that all of the children of Israel share together. 

Adonai is mindful of us.  God will bless us.
~Psalm 115:12

At most Thanksgiving celebrations—across the nation—there is a moment when the people around the table shift their focus from the bounty of goodness heaped upon their plates to the bounty of goodness that fills their lives.  We say “thank you” for family and friends, for health and well-being, for success and plenty.  We encourage our children to look beyond what they assume they should have, to truly appreciate all that they are fortunate to have.  We take time to count our blessings from the biggest to the smallest.  But, to whom do we thank? Sure, we thank the cooks for the love and care that they have taken to bring us this wonderful meal.  Perhaps we thank our parents for teaching us, our children for inspiring us, our friends for supporting us.  We may thank – in absentia – people who we work with, people who have provided us with something we value, random people that crossed our paths both literally and figuratively.  These are all good people to thank.  Please, this year, at your Thanksgiving table, say “thank you” to or for all of these people. 

Then, in honor of Chanukah, remember Hallel and take a moment to say “thank you” to God.  You do not have to believe that God is the source of every blessing in your life.  You do not have to believe in any classical notion of God, at all.  All I ask is that you be open to a world in which human effort is not the end all.  Be open to a universe infused by the divine presence.  Be open to your life with the Infinite.  

Praise Adonai for God is good, God’s steadfast love is eternal.
~Psalm 118:1 & 29

When, through the act of giving thanks, we connect to something beyond ourselves we become more than merely ourselves.  When an individual thanks all of the people that touches his or her life, that individual find that he or she is family, community, society.  When we include God in our thanks, we find that we are universal – we are infinite. 

This Thanksgivukkah, connect to your family, your community, your society.  
Invite God to your Thanksgiving-Chanukah celebration this year.  
Connect to all the families, all the communities, all the societies; connect to the infinite.

Praise Adonai, all you nations; extol God, all you peoples, for great is God’s steadfast love toward us; Adonai’s faithfulness endures forever. Halleluyah!
~Psalm 117

*Just for the record, Thanksgiving and Chanukah overlap every few years; the uniqueness of this year is that the first day of Chanukah is directly on Thanksgiving.  Because we begin lighting our candles the evening before, I would argue that, in reality, a more interesting overlap is on years when Chanukah begins on Friday and, therefore, we are lighting the first candle at our Thanksgiving meal!

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

"I Forgive You" vs. "I Am Sorry"

IKAR is a wonderful organization that inspires Jews to reach further towards their own Jewish identity; IKAR encourages us to think of our tradition as a holistic expression of all that we are and can be; oh, and IKAR pushes Jews to make the world a better place.

This may sound like I am just trying to butter the folks at IKAR up (and maybe I am a wee bit!) but in fact I am about to rail against their most recent thoughts on the meaning of the High Holy Days and I just wanted everyone to know that as a community and an idea, I truly appreciate what they are doing - hey, some of my favorite people are from IKAR!

IKAR LA on Forgiveness


According to IKAR's most recent post saying "I forgive you" is harder than saying "I am sorry." 

I disagree.

Please do not misunderstand me, letting go of the hurt and resentment we have towards others is outstandingly difficult.  When we have been wronged by someone, the emotional damage is only magnified by our inability to move forward, or through the pain.  But letting go is not the same thing as forgiving.  Letting go is something I do for my health and well being.  It's about finally coming to terms with the fact that I do not have to live with someone else's opinion of me in the foreground.  Letting go means recognizing that another person's action does not have to define me anymore. 

Letting go is one of the most difficult things a person can do. 

Saying "I forgive you," however, is not the same thing as letting go.  Sometimes "I forgive you" is merely a way to make nice on someone - no matter the resentment still welling up inside.  Sometimes "I forgive you" is so filled with self righteousness.  And sometimes "I forgive you" is merely a passive aggressive way of telling someone that they have been sucky.

Which is why, I believe, Jewish tradition has not made a big to-do about forgiveness.  Rather, Judaism teaches something which is so much more important:


"I am sorry" may not be the hardest words to say however tack on a "that" or a "for" and then do the real hard work of being a thoughtful person who takes responsibility for his or her actions and explain why you are sorry and those will really be the hardest words you have to say.  Hard - but not impossible.  For this is the beginning of repentance and this is what each and every Jew is tasked to do every year in preparation for that moment when we stand before God and asked to be written in the Book of Life for good. 

Saying "I am sorry" means having to confront the wrongs that I have perpetrated.  Saying "I am sorry" means owning my crap and speaking it aloud.  Saying "I am sorry" means having to look someone in the face and admit that I have broken their spirit, heart, or self-image.  Saying "I am sorry" means having to accept the fact that I am all too often disconnected to the ru'ach Elohim - spirit of God - within me and that I am all too often blind to the tzelem Elohim  - image of God - within you.  To get to the point of saying "I am sorry" I need to confront my own fear, shame, and disappointment with myself - this is hard.

But this is what we are asked to do every year, every Elul, in preparation for the High Holy Days;  we are asked to look inward for the wrongs that we are responsible for.  My goodness, I have more than enough wrongs that I have committed in my lifetime to make up for; do I really need to carry the burden of the wrongs others have committed towards me?

And so I encourage everyone:

LET GO of what other people did and said and didn't do and didn't say - if you can.  But more importantly, think about all of the things that you did and said and didn't do and didn't say that have hurt others.  Do this so you can reconnect with the spirit of God with you.  Do this so that you can, again, see the image of God within everyone around you.  And then, do this:
  • Choose 1 person this year to call, write, email, text, pm, meet for coffee that you have wronged
  • Tell them "I am sorry that..."
Maybe, just maybe, that person will forgive you.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

The New Adventures of The Gingeet Rabbi

Welcome to my new blog!

I, Rabbi Anne Persin, have the distinction of serving the fabulous community of North Lake Tahoe. We are redoing our website and so I thought this is the perfect time to enter the 21st century and begin my own blog.

There are so many blogs out there that speak on so many topics and so I keep thinking what will make mine special? What will make mine worthy of your readership? What will make this blog different from all other blogs? Well...


& You (hopefully?)

Because these are the only things that I can offer that are truly unique.

So, here, I will be offering my brand of sassiness to Jewish thoughts and not-so-Jewish thoughts and I will be doing my best to answer your questions, comments, concerns when they arise.

Here's to this exciting new adventure!