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Growing up, I always felt a little uncomfortable with the idea of gift-giving on Chanukah. This tradition comes from the Talmud, which stipulates that everyone, including the most poor, must light Chanukah candles. Because the Torah teaches that tzedakah charity should be given in a manner that respects the dignity of the recipient, the custom developed of giving to charities, which enabled everyone to afford candles.
Ironically, the celebration of Chanukah was once in danger of disappearing from Jewish American homes. In the s Yiddish newspapers began to promote changes in the way Chanukah was celebrated. Chanukah games came on the market, along with a vast array of menorahs of every size, made from every possible material. As the years passed, decorations, greeting cards, Chanukah-themed wrapping paper and music were mass marketed.
Ironically, the Chanukah story is about the fight against forced assimilation into Hellenistic culture. All are steeped in tradition and ritual, which enrich Jewish family life. And, of course, we also have Shabbat every week. A well-rounded Jewish life eliminates the need to overdo Chanukah. When I look back at our family celebrations, I think of Rosh HaShanah dinners with family and friends and our tradition of sending our guests home with a jar of Israeli honey as a symbolic way of wishing them a sweet New Year.
I remember Passover seders where we used multiple Hagaddahs to make the telling of the Passover story real for all of our guests. Chanukah memories are pleasant, but not as vivid. We give gifts to immediate family, and I do enjoy finding just the right present for those to whom I give. When our kids were younger we devoted one night to choosing a charity to which to donate. Chanukah tells an important story and can be a lot of fun.
Hanukkah Gifts & Gift Baskets
So, by all means, enjoy Chanukah gift-giving. But please remember that Chanukah is but one of the many times during the year when we celebrate Jewish life, history and tradition. This post has been contributed by a third party. The opinions, facts and any media content are presented solely by the author, and JewishBoston assumes no responsibility for them.
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