Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Hodu L'Adonai

This year Hanukkah overlaps with Thanksgiving for the first time since 1888. Such a coincidence will not happen again for over 70,000 years. I’m not usually an early adaptor, but the chances of my being here for this future union of Pilgrims and Maccabees is slight, so I have decided to celebrate this conjunction of holy days with a special prayer: Hodu L’Adonai.

Those who know their Hebrew Bible will recognize Hodu L’Adonai as the opening verse of Psalm 136: Hodu L'Adonai ki tov, ki l'olam chasdo/Give thanks to God, Who is good, for God’s mercy is boundless. But this prayer of thanksgiving holds a special surprise.

Hodu is rightly translated here as “Give thanks,” but more surprising it is also the Hebrew word for “turkey.” Yes, there is a slight difference in spelling between these two hodus but let us not limit our great and glorious God to the grammatical quirks of Hebrew. For thousands of years God hid the link between thanksgiving and turkey in plain sight, waiting for us to find it.

As we gather on Hanukkah and light our candles in celebration of the Maccabees’ victory over the Greco–Syrians let us sing hodu l’Adonai: give thanks to God, and then let us give turkey to God as well.

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