American Thanksgiving exemplifies home and hearth. But there’s inevitably someone missing at the table: a beloved bubbe or zayde. A best friend who took their own life. A cousin who died young.
In Chayei Sarah, Isaac mourns his mother’s death well beyond shiva. He wanders in the field, despondent. Suddenly, behold! Rebekah approaches on her camel, and Isaac’s life changes: “And Isaac brought her into the tent of Sarah his mother, and he took Rebekah as his wife, and he loved her, and Isaac was comforted after his mother” (Genesis 24:67).
Isaac transforms through teaching Rebecca about his mother: sharing her stories–her recipes, maybe. Our students can do the same at Thanksgiving: Share stories of those whose faces are absent from the table but whose legacies live in their hearts, minds and family customs.
Imagine if each student invited one new person into the tent of their ancestors. Imagine the love and healing that would spread.
Rabbi Nikki Lyn DeBlosi, PhD, is Manager of Egalitarian Religious Life at New York University’s Bronfman Center, where she serves the Reform, egalitarian, LGBTQIA, and broader Jewish communities.