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Gifts or Gelt?

Thursday, 28 November, 2013 - 8:04 am

According to the National Retail Federation, Americans will spend $602.1 billion this holiday season. Let’s face it: we are materialistic. We want to have all the latest and greatest stuff

By the Jewish people, there was no custom to give gifts. The custom was to give Chanukah gelt (Yiddish for money), not only the chocolate coins but real money, dangy, plata, a.k.a. cash.

Why money? Why not gifts? Won’t the children buy the gift they want if they get enough money?

The two are connected! American materialism is the problem and Chanukah gelt is the solution.

The Chanukah story is about the triumph of Jewish values over the materialistic and self-indulgent values of the Greek culture at that time. The agenda of the Greeks was not to steal the oil or to steal the money from the Jews, they had an ideological agenda to compromise the integrity of the Jewish values imbued in the Jewish way of life. The Jews can light the menorah with oil just not with the pure oil. The Jews can use their money but should use it for self-indulgence.

As an antidote to this self-centered style, the Jewish people gave their children gelt on Chanukah. It was an educational tool for how the Jewish people ideologically view money (and the world in general). In Judaism, the relationship with money involves responsibility and choices. It can be used solely for us or it can be used for the service of G-d as well.

Gifts are used by the recipient for their own enjoyment. Money, on the other hand, can also be given or shared with others. You have the choice to do with it as you wish; you can keep some and give some.

So give someone some real Chanukah gelt and give them the ability to enjoy some, share some, give some and tithing some etc.

Have a wonderful Chanukah and enjoy the turkey.

Rabbi Kushi Schusterman

P.S. See you Sunday at 5:00 pm for the Menorah lighting at Shamrock park.

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