posted by Talk About Giving blog team
December 21, 2011 @ 10:12 am
Happy Hanukkah, everyone! Tonight we celebrate the second night of the Festival of Lights, an eight-day celebration commemorating the rededication of the Holy Temple in Jerusalem. Each night a candle is lit and a series of rituals are performed. Special meals are prepared and in many families, particularly in North America and Israel, gifts are exchanged.
As we celebrate this ancient Hebrew celebration, we couldn’t help but take a closer look at a very special aspect not only of Hanukkah but of Judaism: Tzedakah.
Tzedakah is the Hebrew word for charity. But the interesting thing about tzedakah is that while charity suggests benevolence or generosity, the root of the word actually signifies fairness and justice. In Judaism, giving is not viewed as generous or magnanimous, but simply a righteous act. The right thing to do.
Makes you think a little, doesn’t it? Tzedakah represents not what your heart moves you to do or share, but that which is expected of you. Your obligation to others.
So, regardless of your religion, as we move through this season considering ways to make it mean more than wish lists and presents, here are some ideas for incorporating Tzedakah into your family’s holiday … and maybe your family’s customs throughout the year!
1. Tzedakah Box. Dating back thousands of years, the tzedakah box was originally used to collect donations for repair of the Temple. Today, its presence represents an established Jewish household and it’s used to collect coins for a good cause. Purchase or use your family tzedakah box or have your children make one (great example here). Contribute to your box as a family and select a seasonal (or monthly!) recipient together.
2. Tzedakah Night. In lieu of gifts one night of Hanukkah …
- As a family purchase items on a local nonprofit’s wish list (examples here, here, here, here, here, here and here) and deliver them to the organization together.
- Discuss the monetary value of the gifts that would have been distributed in your family that night and write and deliver a check together to an organization that has meaning to your family.
- Sacrifice a gift.
- Do a clean-up of your playroom and closets. Donate gently used items such as coats, toys or go through your pantry and deliver non-perishable items to your local food bank.
4. Document and reflect. Create a scrapbook or hang pictures in a special place in your house that celebrate and document your families giving efforts and achievements. This will keep the memories fresh and help children understand that they should remember and be proud of the good they have done.
Resources and Suggested Reading:
- Can I Have a Cell Phone for Hanukkah: The essential Scoop on Raising Modern Jewish Kids, by Sharon Duke Estroff
- Teaching Tzedakah to Children: Using Your Common Cents, by Sara Shapiro-Plevan
- Unwrapping the Spirit of Hanukkah: Giving to Charity, USAToday