By Rabbi Steven Bayar
This is Rabbi Bayar’s most recent post for Rabbis Without Borders-My Jewish Learning. This post was published on December 14, 2014.
What is the best present you can give your children for Hanukkah?
To answer the question you have to take a step back and reflect; what type of children do I want to raise? Do I want them to go to a good college (if affordable, yes)? Do I want them to be well off? (nice, but not necessary). Do I want them Jewish (definitely, yes)? What do I want the most for them?
My answer is contained in this story:
In the days when an ice cream sundae cost much less, a ten year old boy entered a hotel coffee shop and sat at a table. A waitress put a glass of water in front of him and waited for his order.
“How much is an ice cream sundae?”
“Fifty cents,” replied the waitress.
The little boy pulled his hand out of his pocket and studied a number of coins in it.
“How much is a dish of plain ice cream?”
Some people were now waiting for a table and the waitress was a bit impatient.
“Thirty five cents,” she said, a little brusquely.
The little boy again counted the coins and said, “I’ll have a plain ice cream.”
The waitress brought the ice cream, put the bill on the table and walked away. The boy finished his ice cream, paid the cashier and departed. When the waitress came back, she picked up the empty dish and swallowed hard at what she saw. There, placed neatly beside the empty dish, were two nickels and five pennies, fifteen cents, the difference between a scoop and a sundae – her tip.”
I want my children to be compassionate enough to think a person, overworked and not very likable at the moment, is still more important than fudge and whipped cream.
But, how can we accomplish this? By giving our children the best present of all on Hanukkah – ourselves. By spending the time with them instead of whatever else is most pressing at the moment.
Rachel Naomi Remen taught, “There is so much more to life than a perfectly clean kitchen floor.” There is also so much more to life than a football game. I have officiated at many funerals. I have never heard a child praise a parent for devoting their time to career.
You can only make a difference in life if you make a difference with others.