Our First Thanksgiving Together, Again

Our First Thanksgiving Together, Again

From the desk of Rabbi David Lyon

In the New York Times, David Leonhardt once wrote an op-ed about the importance of enjoying a “tech-less” Thanksgiving. The point was to preserve the meaning of the holiday without interruptions from phones and tablets that take time away from expressing gratitude for family, prosperity and shared American hopes. But, when I read “tech-less,” my mind went to the Hebrew word, “tach-les,” which means “substance.” “Tachles,” is pronounced with an overt guttural “ch” and a less obvious stress on “les.” A Tachles Thanksgiving suggests that Thanksgiving without our phones might provide us time for substantive conversations and thoughtful expressions of gratitude. Can we do it?

I believe that we can have a Tachles Thanksgiving, because, beyond superficial conversation, we all have reasons to be so grateful. Among spouses and partners, children, and extended family, we would do well to express gratitude by modeling a Jewish practice called Mussar, or ethical living through engagement of soul-traits. In Hebrew, gratitude is “hakarat hatov,” or “recognizing the good.” Alan Morinis, in his book, “Everyday Holiness,” explains, “The good is already there. Practicing gratitude means being fully aware of the good that is already yours” (p. 64).  

Blessings are found in life each day including special joys, challenges we overcome, renewed health, children’s growth and well-being, new friendships and hobbies, satisfaction, and contentedness, and, at the end of the meal and holiday, peace. Without phones and technology at the table, we can go deeply into the relationships that depend on seeing each other’s faces, hearing each other’s voices, and knowing that we’re there for each other. Here are some tips for a Tachles and Tech-less Thanksgiving table that’s civil and kind, too:

  1. Try saying, “When you say that about X, Y, or Z, it makes me feel like we disagree on shared expectations for our nation. Help me understand your position.”
  2. Try responding, “Like you, I’m sharing my point of view. Thank you for hearing me out.”
  3. Avoid using words like “never” and “always,” and try to use “sometimes” and “often.”
  4. Don’t eye-roll when you disagree and keep a modest smile to show you’re listening.
  5. Send a thank-you note to your host for a delicious and Tachles Thanksgiving.

Aswe emerge from the pandemic to sit around the table, again, for the first time, let’s make it a day of friendship and love. From all of us at Beth Israel and from my family to yours, Happy Thanksgiving.

Our First Thanksgiving Together, Again 3