By Laura Seymour
Isn’t it great that we ended the month of Cheshvan with Thanksgiving because poor Cheshvan has no holidays? Then the day after Thanksgiving, we were able to celebrate the new moon as we began the month of Kislev. The month of Kislev has most of Chanukah but we also get to celebrate Rosh Chodesh Chanukah and finish the holiday in the month of Tevet. The Jewish calendar is definitely a fascinating learning opportunity.
The month of Kislev (or perhaps we are thinking about the month of December) is a sometimes difficult month as we must deal with Chanukah (our holiday) and Christmas (not ours). However, both holidays today have something very important in common — gift giving and getting! Each year at this time, we struggle not to get caught up in the extravagance of buying. An important Jewish value at this time is called nedivut, generosity. The idea of generosity brings up many thoughts — giving abundantly, plentiful, more than expected…. However, the dictionary gives the definition as “nobility of thought or behavior.” It is not how much we give but the thought behind the gift — how often have we told that to our children? Perhaps this year, as our country worries about economic woes, we can think more about the thought behind the gifts than the gifts themselves.
There is another Jewish concept that this season brings to mind: gemilut chasadim, acts of lovingkindness. Although our sages have defined specific actions that fall into this category, there is an important overall concept with gemilut chasadim — these are acts that you must do yourself and they have no limit. An example is rejoicing at a wedding. Sometimes we feel, “I don’t want to get dressed up. I really don’t know the couple that well. I won’t be missed.” However, our presence is the most important present at this time and we will be missed so we must go and celebrate with the couple. Perhaps we can add this Jewish value to how we give at Chanukah time — make it a gift of ourselves and our time!
Laura Seymour is director of camping services and Jewish life and learning at the Jewish Community Center of Dallas.
By Laura Seymour