I’m taking a break from cooking, preparing for a very joyous weekend. We’re expanding the joy beyond Thanksgiving, given that my aunt is turning 90 this weekend, all the cousins and cousins’ children are coming into town, (most are staying here) and between Thursday, Shabbat dinner, and Sunday brunch, well, it’s quite a weekend.
And that’s all good. Crazy, chaotic, a little expensive, but good.
So, instead of following along with the next parasha this Shabbat, which would be Vayishlach, I am skipping around to Deuteronomy, Chapter 12, Re’eh. And, I am tipping my kipah to my Tuesday morning Torah group and our teacher Jane Shapiro, for this one. Just this week, as many of our thoughts turned to defrosting and baking and all that, we stopped to talk about joy and feasting and “Makom” (place, God)
In Re’eh, we are amassed at the border, about to come into the Land. Moses is spending a LOT of time talking to the people, exhorting them to remember, remember, remember what to do when you get into the Land. “Together with your households, you shall feast there before Adonai your God, happy in all the undertakings in which Adonai your God has blessed you.” (Deut 12:7) At this point, Moses is reminding the people that, all through their wanderings, there has been a Makom, a place where God dwells, where they must bring their offerings to. But what about once they get into the Land? They will scatter. Where is the Makom then? And up till then, there have been proscribed times and places where they can eat meat. What now? Well, there’s still going to be a central place for the Makom, but it it’s too far away from you, no worries, carry out the these mitzvot at home. Do you want some meat now? Fine, eat as much as you’d like.
The Makom can be in the home. The Makom can be where you are. The Makom, which has been portable through the wilderness, is now both portable and in more than one location at the same time. And what do you do in this home/Makom? Eat meat. Take care of the needy. Be grateful. Create a sacred space. Praise. And be joyous. The Makom turns the meal into something of significance; it turns eating into feasting.
Sounds like Thanksgiving to me. Around our table this year will be many (many!) dear and loving faces. There will be turkey, and other things for the vegans in our midst. We are grateful indeed. We are taking care of those who need extra care. We will, indeed, create a sacred space with prayer and song. And we will be extraordinarily joyous.
May you all have loving faces around your table, enough food for leftovers, time to reflect on your blessings, and expressions of joy and love all around. We wish each other Happy Thanksgiving. In my notes from Tuesday, I wrote: happiness is grounded in gratitude. Happy Chapter 12. Happy Thanksgiving.