Not everyone stuffed themselves with Thanksgiving turkey yesterday. I ate fish. I had my reasons.

Getting older, Carolyn and I sometimes celebrate holidays differently. As to yesterday, our kids wouldn’t be coming over. Another couple, Joan and Joe, faced the same situation. Neither Carolyn nor Joan wanted to cook.* So we enjoyed Thanksgiving dinner at Beach Chalet overlooking San Francisco’s Ocean Beach and the Pacific. 

Why fish for me? I love Thanksgiving turkey but eat kosher-style. This includes not mixing meat with dairy, found in many side dishes. (The Jewish dietary laws consider fish pareve, consumable with either meat or dairy.) Restaurants can’t always accommodate, but Beach Chalet offered a sea bass option.

Did I miss out on turkey? No. *Carolyn loves that turkey aroma filling the house at Thanksgiving and roasted one for Wednesday’s pre-holiday dinner. Giblet gravy, stuffing, green beans and cranberry sauce all were dairy-free. We’ll eat turkey for several days then freeze the rest. I’m thankful that I’ll have had my fill.

But there’s more to Thanksgiving. Like, giving thanks. It’s easy to be thankful on the holiday. I give thanks every morning.

I’ve been davening (praying) mornings for years. My ritual is brief. I thank my parents, Morris and Blanche, my Aunt Anne and Uncle Moe Horowitz—emotionally, second parents—and my in-laws, Bette and Roy Power. I enjoy a comfortable life. They helped pave the way.

I thank my grandparents and those great-grandparents who came to the United States from Poland and Belorussia at the end of the 19th and beginning of the 20th centuries. The Perlsteins and Orlinskys, Finkles and Horowitzes, braved crossing the Atlantic then adapted to an America not fond of Jews but affording them breathing space denied by the Tsarist empire. The immigrants kept their eyes on the future. Their children prospered and opened new possibilities for my generation.

Then I wish for healing and peace among all peoples. In Hebrew, I recite the Sh’ma, the Jewish credo most translated as, “Hear O Israel, the Lord is our God, the Lord is One.” (The Muslim Shahada repeats, “There is no God but God.”) I conclude with the V’ahavta: “You shall love the Lord Your God with all your heart, with all your soul and with all your might.”

The American myth of the self-made man (rarely woman) lives on. It misses the mark. I credit people who’ve built success from very little, but no one thrives in a vacuum. Somewhere, sometime, one or more people lend a hand, guide, propel us forward. Also, our system of government and economics, while hardly perfect, creates an environment for the pursuit of self-fulfillment. 

In this light, the Torah states that when God began to create the world, the waters—the basic element of creation—already existed (Genesis 1:2). On the second day, God made a dome to separate the waters above and below the earth. God also gathered the surface waters to make room for dry land. (Genesis 1:6–9). Had God made the waters earlier? Did they pre-exist God? These questions remain unanswerable. But the earth itself came from something.

Thanksgiving—my 79th—has passed. But each day offers a new opportunity to give thanks and ground my approach to the world. For that, I’m always thankful.

The post will take next weekend off and return on Friday, December 9.

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  1. Ronald Eaton on November 25, 2022 at 12:17 pm

    David, I too did not have Turkey. I also didn’t have beef, fish , deer, goose, bear, squirrel, or opossum; but not because of kosher restrictions. I refrain from factory raised meat to do my little bit to help preserve an environment in which future generations can give thanks for their world. As for the other uneaten creatures, I don’t participate in their killing so that they too in their way can give thanks for their lives. And—-secretly, of course—-I also get to be thankful that I am morally purer than the flesh-eaters. Win win. RWE

    • David Perlstein on November 25, 2022 at 12:34 pm

      I appreciate your moral purity, Ron. I claim none. But I regret that you’ll never have the pleasure of a good corned beef sandwich, chopped liver or Carolyn’s brisket. Not to mention the House of Bagels’ white fish salad. All sinfully good! Perhaps the emerging faux-meat technology will change that.

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