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Making Hanukkah about giving, not getting

I want my kids to be grateful they can take the privilege in their lives for granted, so this year here's what we're doing
Image by RJA1988 from Pixabay

My children are spoiled brats. Sure, 2020 has taught them about “going without” things that they otherwise may have taken for granted. There was no camp, no summer trip to America. I know – you are crying for them as you read this (I hope my sarcasm is coming across).

I am sure I’m not alone in my feelings that vary between being extremely grateful for the privileges that my children have and worrying that they are growing up in a bubble, completely unaware of what the real world is like and what it means to have “actual” problems that don’t involve the wifi sometimes not working and video games freezing. On the one hand, my maternal instinct wants unreliable wifi to be the absolute worst thing that ever happens to any of my children. On the other hand, I want them to understand how lucky they are.

And I don’t mean lucky because they get to go on fun vacations or occasionally splurge on expensive sneakers. I mean that I want them to understand that the privilege they have goes way deeper. They have a roof over their head. They have food on the table. They have school books. They have clothes that fit. They have shoes without holes. These are the things that I want them to know they can always take for granted, but I also want them to be deeply grateful for the mere fact that they can take them for granted. And, more than that, I want them to know that simply having that security means they absolutely MUST help others who are not as lucky.

I’d like to think that we are raising them in a home where the value of “tzedakah” is clear. I know that they are growing up in a community where “chesed” and giving abounds (so in case we are failing as parents, hopefully they are still getting the message from somewhere!). I believe that giving to charity and helping those in need is something that needs to be done all the time, in whatever way possible (no matter how big or how small) and not just concentrated at one time of year. But, there are certain holidays where opportunities arise and it’s a good way to give to others and educate my children at the same time.

My favorite Hanukkah memories as a kid are of lighting the menorah in my dad’s study. We would all pile into the room, light the candles, sing VERY off-key, and then get to the fun part – the presents, at least one for every night. As my sister and I got older, the presents got less interesting (think socks and other necessities), but there was still something fun about opening a wrapped gift each night. This is a tradition I wanted to continue with my own children when they were small – giving them the excitement of 8 nights of little treats and treasures. As they’ve gotten older, they’ve been lucky enough to start associating Chanukah less with an assortment of small gifts and more with a trip spent with grandparents and cousins – an even greater benefit!

This year, as with all the other holidays, Hanukkah will look different. We will not be spending it with grandparents or other extended family. (We will be singing off-key when we light the candles though, that’s just a given). While I am tempted to get each kid 8 amazing presents to make up for the tough months we have all been experiencing, I will not be doing that. Instead, they will each receive a card from Myisrael, explaining to them that a gift has been purchased in their name for someone in need.

This is truly the best Hanukkah gift I can give them – showing them how we can spread some light in this time of darkness, reminding them that we have much to be grateful for, and helping those in need. It’s a brilliant initiative on the part of Myisrael because my kids will still get something to open and so will some kids (or adults) who otherwise may not have had much to celebrate at all this year. 

If you are looking to make your Hanukkah a bit more meaningful this year, check it out.

About the Author
Emily Kirschenbaum planned to spend one year in Israel 13 years ago...She now resides happily in Ra'anana with her husband, 3 Israeli-American kids and the cutest dog in the world. In her professional life, she runs a content marketing business (www.purplechia.com) with an awesome partner!
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