Posts Tagged ‘Black Friday’


Yesterday, Carolyn, Seth and I (Yosi is in Virginia) celebrated Thanksgiving at Aaron and Jeremy’s house. Food? The usual plenty. Although forgive me for using the word usual. I’m grateful for my good fortune, which happens to include lots of “little” things. Here are three.

Thank you cable TV and content providers like Netflix and Amazon for entertaining, challenging shows. We recently concluded Narcos (Netflix) about the Colombian drug czar Pablo Escobar—violent but riveting with a great performance by the Brazilian actor Wagner Moura. We’re about to see Show Me a Hero (HBO) and The Man in the High Castle (Amazon). Showtime’s Homeland and The Affair (Dominic West lives out all my author fantasies) are winding down, but House of Cards (Netflix), Game of Thrones (HBO), Grace and Frankie (Netflix) and Silicon Valley (HBO) wait in the wings.

Thank you books and their authors. I feel unsettled when I’m not into a book even though I’m now reading the December Atlantic magazine with the next Foreign Affairs coming soon. I just finished Richard Ford’s The Sportswriter. It took me 30 years to get to it, although I read the second novel in his Frank Bascombe trilogy, Independence Day, some time ago. I just started Andy Weir’s The Martian—science as fiction. After that it’s non-fiction—Atul Gawande’s Being Mortal: Medicine and What Matters in the End. I’m not morbid. Just, well, mortal. Then I’ll check my nightstand for more titles. (Tip: Read Chris Cleave’s novel Incendiary, written five years after 9/11, for a British take on Islamist terrorism’s effect on Western society.)

Finally, thank you Shabbat. The late Dean Martin had a great line about people who don’t drink: “You wake up in the morning and that’s as good as you’re gonna feel all day.” I don’t equate Shabbat to alcohol but to something far more soul enriching. The Sabbath, which begins Friday at sundown and ends at sundown on Saturday, restores me weekly.

Sure, I live a low-key life—TV, movies (we have tickets to the new Star Wars), theater and books. That’s in addition to writing fiction and this blog. Plus reading Torah each morning. And getting together with friends. But we all face challenges, disappointments and the occasional inner torment. Shabbat suspends all that. It’s the day, never far off, on which every person can “get off the wheel”—turn aside from the ordinary and celebrate the extraordinary: creation (i.e. the universe) and our connection to that which is greater than ourselves. I worship at my synagogue on Friday night. After, Carolyn and I have a special dinner at home. And watch TV! I go to Torah Study on Saturday morning then out to coffee with friends. In the afternoon, I free myself from humdrum obligations in favor of a walk, reading and an occasional nap.

Admittedly, my pleasures—add ice cream, daily walks and any opportunity to laugh—are simple. Still, I try to be thankful each day—and on Shabbat particularly—for those things that truly nourish us yet often go overlooked. That’s why today I adhere to a mantra echoing the Rabbi’s blessing in Fiddler on the Roof: May God bless and keep Black Friday… far away from me.

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The holiday is over. The Holidays are in full swing. Yesterday marked the eighth and last day of Chanukah (the last candle-lighting was Wednesday night). The vast majority of Americans didn’t notice. They’re focused on Christmas. I feel for them.

I’m not much of a Chanukah gift giver. While Chanukah comes around the time of Christmas (it was way early this year), it’s not the Jewish equivalent. Theologically, Jews don’t recognize any offspring of God. In terms of significance, Rosh Hashanah, Yom Kippur and Passover represent the major Jewish holidays. Sukkot, Simchat Torah and Purim, among others, form an important second tier.

Chanukah is meaningful, of course. It celebrates the rededication of the Temple in Jerusalem following a rebellion against the Assyrian Greeks—the overlords of Judea. In truth, the war against King Antiochus IV was in great part a war among Jews. Many found Hellenism attractive, although they remained Jews. Others, including the priest Mattathias and his son Judah Maccabee (Judah the Hammer), thought Hellenism repugnant—a threat to proper Jewish worship and continuity.

Moreover, every culture at some distance from the equator seeks to brighten winter’s darkness. The Chanukiah (a menorah has seven lights, not eight plus one for Chanukah) brightens our homes, streets—we display the lights publically—and spirits.

This year, the first day of Chanukah occurred on Thanksgiving (again, candle-lighting the night before). Such timing won’t repeat for tens of thousands of years. But whatever Chanukah’s dates, there’s a lesson to be shared with those celebrating Christmas. Repeating the British government’s advice during World War Two: Keep calm and carry on.

Chanukah lasts eight days. You get into it and out of it without too much commotion. Christmas is a single day, but it encompasses about two months of activity—slow build, frenzied anticipation, big night before, big day, post-Holiday sales. Christmas shopping gets a nudge the day after Halloween. The big push comes on Black Friday. Or so it used to be. Shopping now gets serious on Thanksgiving itself. Many Americans, who often guiltily view the Christmas season with a sense of dread—expectations tend to rise above achievable levels—wonder if they’re giving thanks for freedom and opportunity or for bargains.

For marketing purposes, the special days following Thanksgiving receive names. Black Friday we know. That leads to Small Business Saturday. Sunday suggests rest, but it’s America’s day to worship in the cathedrals of the National Football League. So let’s call it what it is—Football Sunday. Cyber Monday comes next. Then Giving Tuesday. Only the Wednesday that follows lacks a name—until now.

All hail Whipped Wednesday. I call on an exhausted America to sleep late and skip work, see a therapist to sort out Thanksgiving issues and prepare for what’s next, fast between brunch and dinner, pray for strength and get to bed early to conserve strength for the Christmas parties crowding calendars for the next several weeks.

Yes, some people overdo Chanukah. But most of us manage to keep things in perspective. This thought, along with Carolyn and my five Chanukiahs, lights up my soul.

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