Today’s Chanuklah dedication is offered in preparation for Shabbat.

I have been talking with some parents in our synagogue about ways to keep the gift giving aspect of Chanukah in perspective. It can be so overwhelming and difficult, especially with kids, at this time of year.  I suggest that parents consider ways to teach their kids gratitude by helping them to make gifts for those in need. We need to teach our children to dedicate themselves to help Jewish causes near and far. This is the holiday when we are rededicating ourselves to the Jewish people, and so teaching our kids about the value of helping fellow Jews is particularly important at this time of year.

But there are more ways to expand the giving. Family members can give each other non-material gifts at this time of year, such as gift cards for doing chores around the house, and spending special time with a loved one, perhaps doing an activity together that your loved one really appreciates and enjoys. The gift of time and attention is the best gift we can give. You can sweeten it even more with generous offers that are special — a back rub, some fresh soup, or some other pampering can be very special gifts.

We should also offer gift of acts of lovingkindness to others. This is an especially nice time of year to engage in helping others with our hands — our efforts and our hearts are much needed by many, many people and causes. Visiting a nursing home, helping at a soup kitchen, assisting the food pantry, etc, can be very meaningful and generous activities. In this way, we step apart from the self-absorbed material wants of holiday gift-giving.

Helping others cultivates empathy and compassion and teaches tolerance.  In our diverse world, these qualities are the building blocks for a caring, compassionate society.

Parents can and should model acts of lovingkindness for their children, and families and friends can enhance their relationships at this season of Dedication/Chanukah, by doing kind things for others together.  This is where we find the greatest joy in the lights of Chanukah!

May we nurture our shared purpose for a world filled with kindness, love and peace.

Hag urim sameah,

May the festival of lights inspire us to be filled with gratitude, content and generous.

And may it bring you joyous light.