December 2, 2019
by Tzvi Schnee
I spent three days sequestered, until Sunday morning. This is the most convenient time of the year for me to reflect on my life, while most people are celebrating Thanksgiving in a communal way with family and friends. I prefer to remain in a contemplative mode of being for the duration of Thanksgiving Day weekend. Because services were cancelled on Shabbat, due to inclement weather, I had the opportunity to rest, recollect, and reflect more than usual. In fact, if there was one Shabbos each and every year that I would stay home, it would be the Thanksgiving Shabbos (Sabbath).
Abraham Heschel describes the Sabbath as an “island in time.” How much more so, when I am cloistered away from the holiday clamor that would otherwise greatly diminish the capacity to hear the “still small voice” of G-d (1 Kings 29:12). I value reflecting at this time of year upon all that I have to be thankful for in my life. Even so, I do look forward to the family phone call, on Thanksgiving Day, when I get to speak individually to each member of my immediate family, and then some. I imagine that if I were spending Thanksgiving with them, I would not even have that opportunity. Additionally, being an introvert, I would most likely feel lost amongst all of the holiday din anyway, regardless of whether or not I’d be able to spend any quality time with family members.
So, instead, I have my own tradition: a good book, a meal that will last two or three days, and usually several pumpkin pies that I give away, saving one. Ideally, I bake them on Thanksgiving Day morning; this year, however, I only made one pumpkin pie with a gluten free crust. Surprisingly, I did not feel any guilt for not having made any more to give away. Yet, upon further reflection, perhaps, there is some element missing when secluding myself – the same element I excluded by not making extra pies – giving. After all, the name of the holiday is Thanks-giving. So, I ask myself, were I not living on the other side of the country from my family, would I still prefer to be sheltered in the quietness of my hermitage, where solitude prevails? Perhaps, I would at least have plenty of pumpkin, and even apple pies to share.