The Circle Within


By Rabbi Mark Melamut

Shalom,

Having celebrated the New Year, reflected on Yom Kippur and dwelled in our sukkah, we’re all ready for a break, right?  Take a deep breath and hold on, because here comes pumpkinsThanksgiving and Hanukkah.  We leave behind the sounds of the shofar, the blurriness and aches of a fast and the fresh air and delights of our harvest festival of Sukkot.  While we leave behind apples and honey, and move on to turkey, pumpkin pie and finally latkes and sufganiyot (I’m hungry already), some symbolism of our New Year remains.  Namely, the shape of a circle follows us, like our own shadow, from Rosh Hashana all the way through Hanukkah.  Think about it.  Our New Year’s challah is round.  Pumpkins are round.  Latkes and sufganiyot, no matter how you make them, are roundish, or at least more round than any other shape.

However we slice it, pun intended, the shape of a circle is with us.  At sad occasions round foods, like hard-boiled eggs or lentils, are the recommended foods in order to remind us that there really is a time for every purpose under heaven.  Whether it’s the cycle of life or wholeness, round shaped foods and symbols (for example, the rings of a wedding ceremony) are also a part of our happiest occasions.  Roundness, literally and symbolically, is what sustain us.  For example, take this Pilgrim verse (1633), “For pottage and puddings and custards and pies, our pumpkins and parsnips are common supplies.  We have pumpkins at morning and pumpkins at noon, if it were not for pumpkins we should be undoon.”

Along with roundness or wholeness comes the coupled theme of giving thanks.  From Psalm 118 and our hallel prayers, we read,  “Hodu Ladonai ki tov, ki l’olam hasdo/Give thanks to G-d, for this loving kindness is enduring (interestingly enough, hodu is also the hebrew word for turkey.)”  And from Psalm 100, literally, A Psalm of Thanksgiving/ Mizmor L’todah, we find, “Sing unto G-d in thanksgiving.  Acclaim with joy, all the earth…  Enter into G-d’s gates with thanksgiving…give thanks…”

This Thanksgiving, along with your serving of pumpkin pie, here are a few questions to nosh or gobble upon:  What are you thankful for?  Who deserves your thanks?  How can you give them your thanks?

This Hanukkah, served along with your latkes and sufganiyot (keep an eye out for my deep fryer), here’s a question to saturate your soul:  What areas of your life would benefit the most from your Hanukkah presence this season?

Lsimcha l’simcha, from joy to joy, and even with life’s oy, I wish you and yours a WONDER-FULL next holiday season,

Rabbi Mark


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