THE RABBI'S THANKSGIVING INVITATION by J. Ben Avraham 11/26/2015
Rabbi Jacob Groshen left his humble house on West 3rd Street, He had accepted a Thanksgiving dinner invitation from the Smith family just a few streets up. He had never met the Smiths, but old pastor Williams from First Baptist had mentioned the rabbi's name to them, so, even without meeting him, they invited him to dinner. Now that's the Thanksgiving spirit.
The rabbi's family had come to America many years ago, some left Russia and Poland and moved to Germany, later they immigrated to the states via Ellis Island. Grandfather (Saba) had started Beth Shalom, an orthodox synagogue back in the early 20s in their little town of Andersville.
Most of the town's folk were Baptist or Lutherans, just a few families were Jewish. Rabbi Groshen's demeanor was friendly, always saying hello or "shalom" to all who met him. He would go for his daily walks around the town's not-so-busy streets, with his black hat and grayish beard, his black suit jacket and white shirt.
He would sometimes visit the Baptist church, enjoy the services. He read and studied the Torah, and especially liked Isaiah 53. He knew its meaning, even being Orthodox, he knew, in his heart, who his Messiah was, yes, he had the peace of heart. He lived a biblically kosher life-style, celebrated the Moedim, the High Holy days, with their true meanings in heart.
Near Christmas time, cars would slow down and the drivers would say a few words like; "Hey Rabbi, the season is near, very near, so... "Merry Hanukkah" the rabbi would shout back, even before the drivers could finish their little greetings. The drivers would smile and shake their heads and drive on. The rabbi knew the history of December 25th, of Saturnalia, when the Emperor of Rome added Jesus to the list of his pagan gods, to be celebrated on that day. No, thought rabbi Groshen, December 25th would be just one more day of the year. He knew and studied Messiah's birth, during the time of Sukkot, the Feast of Tabernacles, yet he was still polite to all, he respected their customs and belief, but if someone asked him what he thought, they would have to be prepared for a long encounter.
But now it was Thanksgiving time, a time of saying thanks to God for blessings received throughout the year. His family had adopted the Thanksgiving custom, Turkey, mashed potatoes, stuffing, corn, pumpkin pie, eggnog with a shot of Schnapps. Grandpa Saba had adapted first to the custom, and soon, everyone followed.
The years passed, the trees had turned shades of red, brown, and yellow many times over, his advanced age slowed him down. Most of his family had gone the way of all mankind, with the exception of Enoch and Elijah. He was grateful for this Thanksgiving invitation, even though he had never met the Smiths.
He walked a few blocks up, found a red-brick house with a white door at 25 Elm Street. The name "Smith" was painted on the rustic looking mail box to the left of the driveway. He walked up to the front door, and rang the doorbell. The ding-dong rang out softly. A few seconds passed and a young woman in her forties opened the door;
"You must be Rabbi Groshen" she smiled, extending her hand.
"Yes" replied the rabbi, "Thank you for inviting me to Thanksgiving dinner"
"Oh, it's a pleasure, won't you come in?" said the Mrs. Smith, opening the door all the way and standing aside. The rabbi walked into a nice, cozy home, with the Thanksgiving decors all around; pumpkins, Indian corn, Pilgrims and Indian cut-outs, and a long wooden table with all sorts of food items of the Thanksgiving season. There were 5 people at the table, Mr. Smith, who got up smiling and lead the rabbi to a vacant seat.
"It's an honor to have you rabbi" Mr. Smith said joyfully. "The pastor told me about you".
"Well" replied the rabbi, "I have only spoken to him a few times, and I have visited your church just a few times as well. It seems that some people just don't seem to be comfortable around us, even though some of us, have recognized Yeshua as Messiah.
"Well" replied Mr. Smith, "You're welcome here, have a seat, my wife Belinda is coming in with the dinner."
Rabbi Groshen sat down, yes, he was hungry, and thought about the oven roasted Turkey that would come through the kitchen door at any minute. finally, the swinging doors parted and Belinda Smith come through with a covered platter. The other members of the household looked at rabbi with a sort of uncomfortable smile, as if, something was amiss.
"Happy Thanksgiving" said Belinda Smith, uncovered the platter. The rabbi looked at the platter and his heart seemed to have skipped a beat. He felt a little nervous, the others were watching him. No, it wasn't a turkey, in the middle of the table, in a silver platter was an oven baked ham, with cloves and all.
He was really in a predicament, He had always lead a kosher lifestyle, only eating Biblically kosher foods, you know, chicken, beef, turkey, lamb, goat, etc., in accordance to the Torah 's Leviticus 11. Now here lay a ham, a real-deal, porky-pig, oink, oink, ham. He stared at it, it was kind of oval shaped, with a bit of glaze.
Now, he thought, I could do one of two things, I could say, "I can't eat this, this is unclean food, and just have some salad.” But then, he would embarrass his hosts, make them feel bad, why didn't they know that Jews didn't eat pork, or ham, or whatever you wanted to call swine flesh?
But then he remembered something he had read, to accept whatever that was put in front of him, and give thanks, after all, he wouldn't die for eating ham, he wouldn't be cursed. It would only be this one time. Yes, he would accept the Smith's Thanksgiving ham dinner with all the trimmings. Just one little slice would be enough, he could stuff himself with stuffing, cornbread, and cranberry sauce and enjoy the pitcher of spiced apple cider.
"Thank you, I'll just have one slice of ham…I’m…ehh…not very hungry"
"Just one slice" questioned Mr. Smith, sort of smiling...."Oh"...he continued...."It's turkey ham, not ham-ham". Now he was really smiling, the whole Smith house-hold was smiling, the younger kids were giggling.
“Yes", Mrs. Smith said, "we try to eat kosher too, according to Leviticus 11, so, let's enjoy this boneless turkey that looks like ham."
The rabbi let out a sigh of relief, "In that case, giving me four slices" he said, lifting his plate toward the platter of oven roasted turkey ham.
“With pleasure” replied Mr. Smith, cutting him four slices. “Happy Thanksgiving to us all!”
....and...a Happy 2017 Thanksgiving to all of you who are reading this short tale for this time of year!