Re: the Season of Giving

Gift Giving

My fiance holds the gift I gave him on the eighth night of Chanukah. Dec. 23, 2014.

With the Season of Giving going behind us, it seems fitting to take a moment to say thank you–both to the people who gave me gifts personally, but also to all the people whose generosity helped brighten the lives of others. It’s always seemed fitting to me that the gift-giving holidays are all clustered during winter, when we (in the northern hemisphere) most need the cheerfulness to keep us warm until the spring.

As any gift-giver may know, the easiest gifts to send are those that give themselves–like cash and gift cards. There’s something special about tearing off the wrapping paper and seeing precisely what you want to get, but for as long as I can remember there has been a different kind of excitement when I open a gift card–now I’m holding potential, opportunity, and I get to go on an adventure to decide precisely what I want.

This post is about one such adventure.

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The Only Gift I’m Asking For

With the holiday season wholly upon us, it seems we’re all making our lists and checking them twice. This year, there is but one thing I’m asking for–and I hope you’ll consider helping me get it.

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To Give and Not To Get

Giving is one thing, but getting is another. I enjoy getting presents (who doesn’t?), but sometimes I feel a little heavy when I get stuff… Maybe it felt like a compulsory gift, like it was given without heart? A mandatory procedure, purely bureaucratic. Is a cabinet gift a meaningful moment?

Sometimes it doesn’t feel that way.

Anyways, there’s another kind of gift that’s not just meaningful for the one who gave it (or the one who received it), but for many others, a gift that keeps on giving. And that, which you should see coming, is what leads me to being thankful for what I’m thankful for today: Charity.

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From Under the Tree: How The Presents Really Got There (And Why We Should Send Them Back)

There’s a controversial Christmas song that I just love: Lady Gaga’s Christmas Tree. Full of rabid innuendo and a pop/rock beat, I just can’t get enough of it. It’s also a stark contrast to the radio hits they must forget as soon as the songs roll over (for why else would they play them three and four times an hour, when such amazing new music has been crafted, such as Enya’s “And Winter Came…” or the Hotel Cafe Presents Winter Songs?), and as a vehement oppositionist of Christmas (remember last year?), I appreciate the change in tunes.

In any case, it’s pretty obvious what I must be thankful for today, isn’t it? Grudgingly or not, today I’m thankful for giving.

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Two for One and One for Five

Or, Observations; or, Character Profiles of the Rabbinical Kind

This week’s lesson is not a lesson at all. This week’s lesson is a list; and not a list like last summer’s three precepts, pillars, or principles, but a list of names: five students, in fact. It teaches nothing, nothing at all. It is merely a forward to next week.

2.10 Rabbi Yoḥanan ben Zakkai had five disciples, namely:

Rabbi Eliezer ben Hyrcanus, Rabbi Yehoshua ben Ḥananiah, Rabbi Yose Ha-Kohen, Rabbi Shimon ben Netanel, Rabbi Elazar ben Arakh.

Not very much to work with, is it? I pondered for a moment, I could discuss names, but that’d be a topic teaching little and lasting less, so I thought, if the point is to study, why not go until we have something to study? That is, this week, I’m doing TWO teachings! So let’s carry on, shall we?

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