As a child, I always loved getting presents for Chanukah. Unwrapping the gifts and listening to the crumpling and ripping of paper had a certain mystique. I would attempt to size up the package, trying to figure out what was inside based on its dimensions. The process was filled with excitement, intrigue and suspense. What would be revealed this year?
True confession: There were a few years when, along with my brother, we would launch undercover missions and search for the Chanukah presents before our parents had a chance to wrap them. We knew all the hiding places, even though new ones would always pop up. There was a certain thrill in these “search and rescue” missions, trying to get a sneak peek without getting caught.
While I may remember a few of the gifts I received over the years, most of them have largely been forgotten. Most of those childhood gifts, particularly the new and trendy toys of the season, were used and discarded fairly quickly. As an adult, I would come to realize that there is only one gift that I ever received that continues to be of value, and that was the gift of “presence.”
Today, we are so busy, many argue busier than we have ever been. We are constantly telling people, “I have been so busy.” Maybe, just maybe, it is time to reclaim our lives, filling them with quality, spiritual moments where our minds are quiet, appreciative and content.
One of the most inspirational Jewish texts, “Pirke Avot” (Chapters of the Fathers) teaches, “Who is rich?” And the answer is the one who is content with what they have. We don’t need more. We need to be more. We need to give the gift of “presence” to those in our lives, to create the experiences that we will look back upon and know that this was time well spent.
Who is it in your life that needs your gift of “presence?” It could possibly be the best gift you will ever give.
Chag Urim Sameach! Happy Festival of Lights!
Larry Sernovitz is the senior rabbi at Temple Kol Emeth.