Tzedakah: The 6th Night of Hanukkah

Do you remember when you counted the days until Hanukkah arrived?

I can still picture my mom polishing the traditional brass lion menorah and buying new candles from our Temple Sisterhood. I was allowed to select just the perfect candles, sometimes placed in order by colors and sometimes chosen to simply be bright and happy. Mom’s latkes were the best ever; she made hundreds for the religious school’s Hanukkah party and was called “The Latke Lady.”

Having three delicious grandchildren — Madaline, age 9; Lev, age 5; and Mila, age 4 (pictured here during Hanukkah 2011) — makes the holiday so much fun. It also takes thoughtful planning and shopping. For several years, I have asked their moms, our daughters Lysa and Amanda, what the kids need or want. Though I asked the same question this year, I added another.

Our Reform Movement has encouraged giving rather than receiving on the 6th night of Hanukkah. Last year, our grandkids selected toys for kids living in shelters. I was so proud that they understood the importance of donating. But I also knew that each child would still open a present from David and me on that 6th night.

This year, they are a year older and all of them now understand the concept of tzedakah even better. So my new question for their moms was: “Could we give $18 to each child and have them choose a meaningful place to give their gift from us for the 6th night?”

David and I want to talk with the kids about sharing what they have with others. Would they consider giving something other than toys or books this year? They are now aware of poverty, here and abroad, and of disasters like Hurricane Sandy. We also want to suggest something local, perhaps they might give their money to the Camp Harlam Scholarship Fund to help other kids get to camp?

I’d love to ask all grandparents to consider this plan or something similar and grab this teachable moment. Thankfully, our family can fully celebrate the holiday with all its blessings and candles, latkes, community gatherings, and presents. But there are many who cannot access holiday joy. Take the time to explain gratitude for what we have and how to best gift someone else.

I’ll let you know how our new Hanukkah tradition unfolds. Now our clan has a new chapter to add to our family lore: how we give to others on Hanukkah. Very soon, I will get out that old brass lion menorah and get it polished with candles that I’ll get the from Temple Sisterhood and then Madaline, Lev, and Mila can pick out the colors.

Happy Hanukkah!

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Rosanne M. Selfon

About Rosanne M. Selfon

Rosanne Miller Selfon is a proud NFTY alum and lifelong Reform Jew from Lancaster, PA, where she was the first bat mitzvah in 1961. Today she is the only life member of the Board of Trustees of Congregation Shaarai Shomayim. As a past president of Women of Reform Judaism, she is a lifetime member of the WRJ Board of Directors. She has been a member of the URJ Board of Trustees since the early 1990s and currently serves as the Chairman of the URJ Camp Harlam Council and Vice-Chair of the NAC. To date, two of her three grandchildren are Harlam campers.

One Response to “Tzedakah: The 6th Night of Hanukkah”

  1. BEAUTIFUL! In thought and in deed! You have started a new tradition in many homes far beyond those of your grandchildren…and you will never know about them all. That is a blessing in itself!

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