Our Thanksgiving Shabbos Tradition


We didn’t live near any relatives when I was growing up, and since my mother doesn’t particularly enjoy cooking (I think her motto is something like “cook to survive”), Thanksgiving wasn’t ever a big to-do for us.  However, when my family moved to St. Louis twelve years ago, we found ourselves close to family, and that family could COOK!  Boy, could they cook.  We started spending Thanksgiving together, and I enjoyed the food, the camaraderie with cousins I had never really known, and the overall atmosphere.  It was a new holiday experience.

Of course, once I started keeping kosher, I wasn’t able to partake of the yummy food anymore, and then I went and studied in Israel, and then I got married and moved away from family.  My husband didn’t exactly grow up with any Thanksgiving traditions (ah, cultural differences), and since I make the food quantity equivalent of Thanksgiving every week, I was okay with forgoing the tradition.

Until my parents came to visit us over Thanksgiving weekend three years ago, that is.

My parents are great, and they come visit as much as they are able to, which we love.  Oftentimes, this means they are sacrificing their holiday time to come be with us (I think the grandkids are really the main draw).  So, three years ago, they decided to come over their Thanksgiving vacation.

I realized that my parents, while they aren’t foodies by any stretch of the imagination, would still be missing out on the yumminess of all that good food.  I found out that my mom had been telling her co-workers that even though she wasn’t going to be having a Thanksgiving meal, the trip was well worth it (grandkids are yummier than turkey with stuffing, after all).  And I greatly appreciated their sacrifice, as well as the massive consideration they give to us whenever they come visit.  Our lifestyle is just a touch different than theirs, after all.

So, while I was not about to make Thanksgiving only to make Shabbos a day later (or to serve leftovers on Shabbos, which just doesn’t do it for me), I wanted to do something for my parents, to show our appreciation.  I decided to make a Thanksgiving-themed Shabbos.  We had done Chinese Shabbos, Mexican Shabbos, what have you, so why not a Thanksgiving Shabbos?

nothing to see here....

I pored over my November issues of Bon Appetit and put together a spectacular menu.  Turkey, gravy, mashed potatoes, green bean casserole, sweet potatoes, pumpkin pie – the works.  I was really excited about this.

My favorite part of this plan is that I didn’t tell my parents what I was planning.  Not until Thursday night, when I needed to start making the turkey (an 11-pound turkey is not something I could be discrete about).  My mom and I had a blast preparing the turkey together, as well as making the rest of the dishes.

It was a very memorable meal, and my parents were so grateful.  My mother was able to return to the office bragging about the fantastic Thanksgiving meal she enjoyed!

And so our tradition of Thanksgiving Shabbos began.  This year will be the third that my parents will be joining us, and while I no longer have the time or energy to make a super-gourmet meal (sorry, Bon Appetit), I still stick to the theme.  Also, my parents are both on diets, so I exercised a good amount of self-control and scaled back the amount of food.  Here is my menu for this year:

Friday night:

Pumpkin Challah (I have already tried this one, and it is super yummy!)

Green bean salad (with craisins, fried onions and creamy dressing, à la the casserole)

Twice-Baked Sweet Potatoes (from Kosher by Design Lightens Up)

Glazed Turkey Roast with Cranberry Chutney (also KBDLU)

Frozen Pumpkin Pie (again, KBDLU)

Shabbos day:

Everything I served Friday night minus the roast.  I’m skipping a cholent and making this:

Sweet Potato and Turkey Deli Roll (KBDLU)

~ ~ ~

I’m really looking forward to spending another Thanksgiving Shabbos with family, and happy to continue this new tradition for my kids.

Do you have any Thanksgiving traditions? 

Torah Tuesdays, er, Thursday: Being Thankful

Photo showing some of the aspects of a traditi...

Thanksgiving every day!

Being thankful is a very Jewish thing.  I’ve heard an opinion that some frum Jews don’t celebrate Thanksgiving because every day is Thanksgiving, and so there’s no need to set aside one specific day.  It could also be because no one wants to make Thanksgiving dinner and then Shabbos a day later (I’m making traditional Thanksgiving food for Shabbos.  Two birds, one stone.  Or, rather, one bird, no stones…).

So how does Judaism incorporate being thankful into daily life?  Well, the day starts off with gratefulness.  In the morning blessings we thank G-d for a whole bunch of things which are easy to take for granted:

  • the ability to make distinctions (like between night and day)
  • vision
  • clothing
  • freedom
  • being able to stand upright
  • water
  • shoes
  • strength and energy to live another day

The gratefulness continues in the daily prayers.  There’s a whole paragraph about being grateful in the Amidah.  In it, we thank G-d for our lives, our souls, His miracles and wonders which are with us every day, every season, evening, morning and afternoon.  There’s a lot to be thankful for, all the time.

Even if a person is too busy (say, taking care of little kids) to daven from a siddur, they are required to say a prayer at least once a day.  The three components of such a heartfelt prayer are praise, request and thanks.  So even in an improvised prayer during the day there is an element of thanks.

Sometimes it can be easier to kvetch about things which, when viewed from a different perspective, are really reasons to be grateful.  How about one time today, take something which seems bothersome and find a reason to be grateful for it.  For instance, being stuck in traffic can provide time to plan ahead for later in the day, or just some time to think.

If that doesn’t work for you, try just making a list of things to be grateful for.  For instance, I’m thankful for this beautiful family that I’ve been blessed with, this sleeping baby on my lap, my curious toddler exploring and discovering the world, my wonderful husband.  I’m thankful that my parents are able to come for the weekend.  I’m thankful that I have parents that I want to come for the weekend.

What are some things that you’re thankful for (I bet you saw that one coming, didn’t you?)?


Torah Tuesdays: Lasting Effects


I attended a shiur yesterday morning (practically an open miracle), and a mention of the influence we can have on other people’s lives piqued my interest as a potential topic to post.

User with smile

Image via Wikipedia

Basically, we may not think that we’re influential (Who?  Little old me?), but every time we interact with someone, even the cashier at the supermarket, our actions are having an effect.  Even something as simple as a smile can make a big difference. A 2008 study by researchers at Harvard found that when a person becomes happy, a friend living close by has a 25 percent higher chance of becoming happy themselves. A spouse experiences an 8 percent increased chance and for next-door neighbors, it’s 34 percent.

Sometimes it’s something we say, even if it doesn’t seem important. A story I heard once on this topic goes as follows:

A businessman, in a hurry to catch a subway train, passes a homeless man who is selling pencils for a quarter.  The businessman doesn’t realize the homeless man is selling a product, but thinks he is simply collected charity money, so tosses him a quarter as he hurries by.  The homeless man flags the businessman down and gives him his pencil.  The businessman says,

“Oh, I didn’t realize you were a merchant,” and rushes to his train.

A few years later, the businessman stops by a newspaper kiosk on his way to catch a train, and the vendor says to him,

“You probably don’t recognize me, but you changed my life.  Years ago,  I was down and out, and I sold you a pencil.  When I gave it to you, you told me that you didn’t realize I was a merchant.  I had never thought of myself in such terms, and it gave me such self-confidence that I was able to save up enough money to buy this newspaper stand.  I now own seven stands in the city.  Thank you.”

Many times we won’t see the effects of our actions, but in some cases we can, like with our children.  Our children are clearly affected by our choices and behaviors, and they will repeat what they learn to their children, and them to theirs.  My husband and I were discussing how our toddler’s view and understanding of the world comes primarily through watching us.

It’s kind of intimidating, frankly.

But that’s okay, because it’s a tremendous opportunity to make an impact in the world.

Choose to do good.  Make a positive difference in someone’s life today.

Do the Diamante


Even though I’ve lost a number of brain cells through pregnancy and parenthood, I refuse to stop trying to use what’s left of my sleep-deprived mind!  I still enjoy reading books (and not just Dr. Seuss’ masterworks, either), dabbling in foreign languages (besides Toddler), playing music (other than the ABC song), and now, writing poetry!

As part of the Algonquin Experiment by Hippie Cahier, I drew up this little diamante (it’s a form of poetry).  It was a fun exercise; I enjoyed stretching my brain muscles a little more than usual.  Here is the end result:


by:  Rivki

Mommy and David Eliezer


vigilant, resourceful

cleaning, hugging, feeding

apron-strings, skirt, tie, suit-jacket

playing, laughing, caring

earnest, helpful


Tatty and David Eliezer