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Rabbi Benjamin Blech on the Similarities, and Essential Differences, between Thanksgiving and Hanukkah

It will never again happen in our lifetimes – unless you are somehow still alive 70,000 years from now.

Rabbi Benjamin Blech Rabbi Benjamin Blech

This year the first night of Hanukkah will coincide with the American holiday of Thanksgiving. The latkes will share their prominent place at the festive meal with the turkey. Small wonder that some have already humorously decided that this year we ought to call the day by a new name – Thanksgivukkah.

In all seriousness, a “coincidence” of this magnitude requires some reflection. This is a perfect time to give some thought to the essential difference between the motivation for the American day of expressing gratitude to God and the Jewish rationale for our Festival of Lights.

Because although thankfulness is the theme behind both of these holidays, they are significantly unlike each other in their emphasis on the particular reason that calls forth our response of appreciation to the Almighty.

As human beings we have two basic needs. One is physical. Because we are flesh and blood we require food to sustain us. Without sustenance we could not live. That is why there is a biblical obligation to bless God at the conclusion of every full meal, defined as one in which we have partaken of bread, the biblical staff of life. “And you shall eat, and you should be satiated, and you shall bless the Lord your God” (Deut. 9:7).

That is one of only two biblically mandated blessings. The other? The blessing over the study of Torah. Food is essential for our bodies but Torah is at least just as important for the preservation of our souls. Read the full article at

Rabbi Benjamin Blech is Professor of Talmud at Yeshiva University and the Rabbi Emeritus of Young Israel of Oceanside. He is the author of 12 highly acclaimed books, including Understanding Judaism: The basics of Deed and CreedIf God is Good, Why is the World So Bad? and the international best-seller The Sistine Secrets. The opinions expressed above are solely those of the author and should not be attributed to Yeshiva University.