The gift of giving at this time of the year


Once upon a time, in a faraway land, a man decided to take a hike through some hills.

He had planned a 25-mile hike. When he reached the 24-mile mark, he got very tired and wished a car would come by and take him the rest of the way, but there were no cars in sight. Not being able to go the one additional mile, he decided to take a rest under a tree just off the road.

Just then, he saw a sign hanging on a tree that said, “There is some really fresh spring water just inside the fence. Drink if you are thirsty.” So inviting was this sign that the man helped himself to a drink. And as he drank, he noticed another sign on a nearby bench. It said, “Sit down and rest if you are tired.” Then he saw another sign, on a basket of apples, that said, “If you like apples, help yourself,” which he was happy to do.

As the man enjoyed the fresh spring water and the crisp apples while sitting on the extremely comfortable bench, an elderly man, using a walker, slowly approached. They engaged in conversation. Soon the hiker asked the elderly man, “What’s with the signs?”

“Well,” the elderly man said, “we have more water than we can ever use, so we thought it would be a good thing to share it with those who need it. And, as you can clearly see, this is a very pleasant spot to rest.

“Mother reminded me that we had this old bench sitting in our attic that was doing nobody any good, so I brought it down here. Not only that, but our apple tree also gives us more apples than we can ever eat, so we are happy to share them.

“So, we put up the signs, and they seem to be doing some good. From the look on your face, it sure looks as if we have brought some light into your life.”

Soon we will be enjoying Hanukkah, the Festival of Lights. We often think of lights being the candles on the Hanukkah menorah, but perhaps we should be thinking about how we can bring a more lasting light into the lives of others. For eight nights we light the candles, and they very quickly burn out. When we add real light to the lives of others, that light burns for a much longer time, maybe even for a lifetime.

Maybe, this year, especially this year, as we are mostly confined to our homes due to the pandemic, we could look around and find things we have in our own homes that we really do not need or use anymore but might do others considerable good. Maybe we have canned foods that are getting ready to expire?

Giving to others, especially food, is especially important during this time of year because, when the winter weather hits, some people get shut in. Because of the pandemic, it has become even harder for caretakers to get in to see people in need this year. And because of the pandemic, many of us are finding it more difficult to get out to shop in the “normal” way.  

 This Hanukkah let us all do things that bring some “real light” into the lives of those who so desperately need it. Let us share with each other each day of the holiday like we have never done before.

People need people now more than ever, and the gift of sharing is something we all can benefit from. Giving this year will have so much more meaning, because if it is to be, it’s up to me.

Wishing all a healthy and joyous Chag Urim Sameach!

RICHARD E. PERLMAN is the senior rabbi at Temple Ner Tamid, in Peabody, Massachusetts, a member of the  Board of Rabbis of Greater Rhode Island, and co-president of the North Shore Rabbis and Cantors Association.