The God Squad: Spiritually acceptable holiday gifts
Hanukkah this year begins at sundown on Thursday, Dec. 10. I freely admit that I am not a big fan of Hanukkah because the Maccabees it celebrates in their revolt against the Syrian Greeks began the Hasmonean dynasty that was thoroughly corrupt and led to the weakening of the Jewish community and its fatal vulnerability to the Roman conquest of Judea in the year 70. However, I, like all Jewish kids, was deeply grateful for a Jewish gift-giving holiday that counterbalanced the Christmas onslaught. Plus, I love potato pancakes.
So let me return, for both my Jewish and Christian readers, to an ongoing interest of mine -- the search for spiritually acceptable holiday gifts. Please write in and share with me your ways to give gifts that leave the heart and enter the heart.
-- Give gifts you make. Even if the scarf you knitted for your giftee turned out a little long, it is still the work of your hands and your heart and not just the work of your credit card.
-- Give memberships to museums and zoos. These places have no visitors now and need your support. By giving a membership, you lower the barrier for your giftee to visit and support worthy and needful organizations.
-- Give games that require family participation. Family games break down the isolation that is wounding us all.
-- Give video games that require solving a mystery rather than video games that require zapping alien monsters. Give chess sets.
-- Give lessons. Give your giftees lessons in the sport or activity they love (unless it is skydiving).
-- Give a day of your life. This was Father Tom Hartman's favorite gift and he included it every year when we wrote this holiday column together. Before every Christmas, Tommy would call up his nieces and nephews and brothers and sisters and tell them that he would come to them and spend a whole day just with them doing whatever they wanted to do (unless it was skydiving). I would give up every present I have ever received to have a day with Tommy now.
-- Make sure you include a card with your gift that includes a long letter and not just a simple holiday card. In the letter, tell the people you love just why you love them and why having their lives woven into your life has given you a sustaining joy that has changed your life for the better.
Now you finish the list for me…
(Note from MG):
Thanks to all of you, dear readers, who laughed out loud at my recent column featuring a selection of funny church bulletins with typos. I do so much deep theology and disaster counseling that I needed to lighten things up a bit. For those of you who want more of my deep-diving into the imposed agonies of life, stay tuned but always remember that I believe in the depths of my soul that our blessings always exceed our burdens.
My friend, Doctor B, in response to the typo column, wrote this scientific addendum about the medical value of laughter:
Studies done revealed that cancer patients who laughed for no apparent reasons several times a day had a better survival rate than those who only laughed if something funny occurred. Actors who had their blood drawn while acting in a comedy found that their immune function improved and stress hormone levels went down.
Those who had their blood drawn while acting in a tragedy found that the opposite happened. Monday morning we have a larger number of every kind of illness and heart attacks, etc., due to how people are feeling on Monday. If you want to live a longer, healthier life, growing up feeling loved makes a dramatic difference versus the illness rate of those who didn't grow up with love by a ratio of 98 percent to 24 percent, so love your children and give them a sense of humor. Last, but not least, when you have decisions to make, let your heart make up your mind. Do what makes you happy and don't wait for a disaster to give you permission.
And a thank you to W, from New Haven, who included a beautiful and appropriate biblical citation that makes my goofy column seem a little less goofy. “A merry heart doeth good like a medicine: but a broken spirit drieth the bones.” (Proverbs 17:22)
OK, I just can’t get out of my fixation on laughter, so let me close with the best joke I have heard this year that is neither spiritual nor rooted in Proverbs nor derived from a church bulletin.
“Some cannibals were eating a clown and one turned to the other and said, ‘Does something taste funny to you?’”
Stay funny during this bleak winter. Spring and the hope for healing is not far off.
(Send ALL QUESTIONS AND COMMENTS to The God Squad via email at email@example.com. Rabbi Gellman is the author of several books, including “Religion for Dummies,” co-written with Fr. Tom Hartman.)
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