Strange things for Thanksgiving to be thankful for …

Attached I present my annual essay on things we never include in our formal list of Thanksgiving blessings like family, food, home, and soccer games. In the past, I have thanked high voltage repair linemen, nursing home workers and squirrels. Of course, I encourage all of you, dear readers, to send your thanksgiving off-grid thanks to me so that the scope of our gratitude and the depth of our blessings may become evident to all of us.

Olives. I became an olive-holic in my old age. Specifically, I like the large green olives from Cerignola. I have read that these are the biggest olives in the world and I love them. They’re firm and buttery and they remind me that big olives aren’t grown with chili peppers or blue cheese, and they’re not here on earth just to garnish martinis.

The great truth of olive trees is that they live for centuries. The best of them are all bent and weathered but still bear fruit year after year. They remind us that great things take time. Olive trees take years to bear their first fruit, but they make up for that in the back. There is an old Jewish legend that an old man named Honi planted a carob tree (if I ate locust beans I would be grateful for them too). A young man arrested him and berated him. He asked Honi why he was planting a tree that would not bear fruit until years after his death. Honi replied that other people had planted carob trees before him and that they had never eaten the fruit he was eating now. Let us remember and give thanks for all the people who planted things and ideas, children and inventions that they never enjoyed in their lives. Planting for the future is perhaps our noblest goal. Olive trees also remind me of very old people who still carry and pass on their wisdom after years of rooting in our lives.

Olive oil is also one of the healthiest foods on the planet. I can trace my eating habits from completely unhealthy to semi-healthy by remembering the days when I went from cooking with solid white foods to cooking with olive oil. Olive trees are also hardy and can live in dry climates and can survive broken limbs and trunks. In the Bible, the endurance of olive trees is a metaphor for human hope in the face of difficult times. In a passage from the Book of Job (14: 7), which I often quote, we read: “For there is hope of a tree, if it is cut down, that at the first scent of water it will grow back. , and that the tender branch of it will not cease. May the truth of the olives be the truth of all mankind in this thanksgiving.

Beekeepers. If olive oil isn’t the perfect food, then honey surely is. Honey does not need to be refrigerated and it never rots. It’s the perfect sweetener. And, of course, the bees that make honey also pollinate the fruits and flowers of the planet. The Bible teaches that “blood is life,” but I disagree. For me, bees are life. The greatest praise of the land of Israel in the Bible is that it is eretz zavat halav u’devash, “a land flowing with milk and honey”. I celebrate the arrival of the Jewish New Year by eating apples dipped in honey. Bees and honey are amazing and yet we don’t thank enough for them, and in particular, we don’t thank the beekeepers enough who care for them, protect them and harvest their golden goodness for us all to enjoy. As a child, my father would take us to visit his friend Wally who owned a beekeeping farm called Honey Acres. Wally was a dedicated beekeeper and taught me my favorite way to enjoy honey, which is chewing on a piece of honeycomb spread on toast with butter. Wally understood and often explained to me how fragile a hive is and how many obstacles bees have to overcome in order to make honey. These obstacles include starvation, killer bees, wasps, mites and now something called CCD (colony collapse disorder), where, for reasons mostly unknown, worker bees disappear from a hive, leaving behind them the queen bee and some nurses. So let’s pray very hard for this thanksgiving for the beekeepers and their hardworking little workers, and never take the sweetness of the earth for granted.


Happy Thanksgiving everyone!

Send ALL QUESTIONS AND COMMENTS to The God Squad by email at [email protected] Rabbi Gellman is the author of several books, including “Religion for Dummies,” co-authored with Fr. Tom Hartman.

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