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January 21, 2017 / 23 Tevet, 5777

Posts Tagged ‘gifts’

Israel On My Mind – Geeky Israeli Gifts and more! [audio]

Friday, December 16th, 2016

In this weeks show! Beat the BDS by buying the coolest new Israeli gadgets for your friends and family this season. Jono talks poop.. again and we check out the ROCK scene coming to Tel Aviv!

Israel On My Mind 15Dec2016 – PODCAST

Israel News Talk Radio

Gifts Of Love

Monday, December 5th, 2016

Everyone loves to receive gifts. We also love to give them, but there is no getting away from the fact that receiving one, especially from someone we love, is special.

As the mother of four sons (and one daughter), receiving gifts was not an everyday affair and, when it did occur, the offerings were sure to be… well, special. Definitely not the usual box of chocolates or bouquet of flowers. And so the gifts that came from my sons were long remembered and treasured.


The Big Brown Vase

As our two eldest boys grew older and developed a growing sense of familial responsibility, they became aware of the importance of remembering Imma’s birthday. One year they decided it was time to actually go out and buy something. They just didn’t know what to buy. After serious deliberation, they decided on a vase. They figured a vase was always useful. Their purchase necessitated skipping a class in their respective yeshivot (they learned in two different places) and arranging to meet in town where they proceeded by foot to the Old City of Jerusalem. With limited funds available, they thought they’d find a decent bargain in the Arab Shuk. And they did. A big, dull, brown, ceramic vase. All vases may be useful, but useful items are not necessarily aesthetically pleasing. This was definitely not a vase I would have chosen. It made the flowers look sad. But I used it faithfully, Shabbos after Shabbos, waiting for it to break. It seemed to last forever.

However, all “good things” come to an end. When it finally fell and cracked, I put it on top of the kitchen cabinets. Throwing it away would have been a desecration of my boys’ love. It took moving to a new house to send it to its eternal resting place where it could finally disintegrate and return to dust. But the brown memory remains and warms the cockles of my motherly heart.


A Card Of Sewing Needles

Ever practical and never one to miss a good deal, our third offspring often came home with interesting things he had acquired. Some of the “things” were alive. Like dogs, snakes, turtles and various insects he “got for cheap.” And as a highly sociable and loving kid, he kept his eyes open for gifts for people he liked. And he found them. One day he presented me with a card full of needles he bought for a shekel from a poor peddler on the street. (“It was a mitzvah to buy from him.”)

Believe it or not, for the past 35 years, I have been using this card of unusual sewing needles. Big, thick, long needles with huge eyes for upholstery; round needles for things that need to be sewn round (you can’t imagine how useful round needles are!) and extra long needles with long, skinny eyes. I treasure them all. All this for one shekel.


The Perfect Perfume Tray

Son Number Four was more inspired. One day he presented me with a small plastic tray. It almost looked like crystal (if you didn’t look too close). “You can put your fancy perfume bottle on it,” he said. Indeed! I had a crystal perfume bottle which had belonged to my mother a”h. It stood on her dresser all through my childhood. The bottle sparkled and held a hint of fairy castles and faraway places. I never used it myself, but I treasured it. It deserved an authentic crystal tray, but plastic transformed by love turns into crystal.

This son also bought me a “real china” knickknack – a mamma goose sheltering her gosling under her wing. When he saw it (another peddler on the street), he thought it would be a wonderful addition to my Mother Goose collection. (In Yiddish, a ganz is a goose and somehow, throughout the years, I have amassed a trove of Ganz-geese in my breakfront.) China his goose is not; a gift of love it is.

A Girl’s Gift – Bina Yeteyra…

My daughter, unlike her brothers, has bought me many daughterly gifts over the years. Each was creative and aesthetic, and quite a few were even useful. But the best gift she gives is her bina yeteyra – her feminine gift of wisdom. Like many wonderful husbands, mine is somewhat clueless when it comes to buying gifts. Fortunately, he has a daughter who, from a young age, always seemed to know what gifts to give. Not only does she advise her father and mother, but she’s also a fount of ideas for her brothers, sisters-in-law, nieces and nephews as well. She gets it right every time. And so I am the happy recipient of many lovely items from my husband, thanks to his daughter’s good sense, timing and taste.

Last But Most Definitely Not Least

There are the “gifts” from the new generations. The grandchildren and great-grandchildren who fill up the refrigerator door, the sukkah walls and the big memo board in my room with cards for Rosh Hashanna; pictures of just about everything (not always recognizable but posted for all to see); things hanging and pasted, cut and glued and sprinkled with natznatzim – sparkly stuff that sticks to your hands and clothing and face but adds immeasurable beauty to their creative efforts. I used to save everything until I ran out of space and offered it all to their parents, free of charge. There weren’t too many takers, so the boxes went, but the memories remained.

So remember… a diamond may be a girl’s best friend, but no stone can compare with the warm, glowing gifts of love we receive from our own, homegrown jewels.

Yaffa Ganz

Games Galore: Afikoman Gifts

Friday, April 22nd, 2016

Jodie Maoz

Israeli Ambassador Sends Washington Bigwigs Settlements Gift Products

Wednesday, December 23rd, 2015

(JNi.media) Israel’s ambassador to the United States Ron Dermer sent senior Washington officials a series of Christmas gifts with a message which the media described as “provocative.” In a letter that came with the gift packages, Dermer wrote: “This holiday season, I decided to send a gift that would also help combat the latest effort by Israel’s enemies to destroy the one and only Jewish state. That effort is called the BDS movement — the movement to boycott, divest and sanction Israel. The main forces behind this movement are fanatics who actively seek to eliminate Israel. Unfortunately, they are occasionally joined by fools who believe that in promoting BDS, they are advancing peace between Israelis and Palestinians.”

The ambassador continues in this vein for several paragraphs, finally concluding: “In response to this effort to cast a beacon of freedom, tolerance and decency as a pariah state, I have decided this holiday season to send you products that were made in Judea, Samaria and the Golan Heights. I hope you will enjoy them.

“May you and your family enjoy a New Year of faith and happiness.”

In response to a New York Times inquiry, the White House refused to say whether President Barack Obama also received one of the gift packages. The Israeli Embassy in Washington declined to provide information on the identity of the recipients.

“The U.S. government has never defended or supported Israeli settlements and activity associated with them and, by extension, does not pursue policies or activities that would legitimize them,” Ned Price, a spokesman for the White House National Security Council, said in an email.

He probably didn’t get one of those settlements gifts.


How to Give

Thursday, August 1st, 2013

Listen to these stories. Behind them lies an extraordinary insight into the nature of Jewish ethics:

Story 1. Rabbi Abba used to bind money in his scarf, sling it on his back, and place it at the disposal of the poor (Ketubot 67b).

Story 2. Mar Ukba had a poor man in his neighborhood into whose door socket he used to throw four coins every day. Once the poor man thought, “I will go and see who does me this kindness.” That day Mar Ukba stayed late at the house of study and his wife was coming home with him. As soon as the poor man saw them moving the door (to leave the coins) he ran out after them, but they fled from him and hid. Why did they do this? Because it was taught: One should throw himself into a fiery furnace rather than publicly put his neighbor to shame (Ketubot 67b).

Story 3. When Rabbi Jonah saw a man of good family who had lost his money and was ashamed to accept charity, he would go and say to him, “I have heard that an inheritance has come your way in a city across the sea. So here is an article of some value. Sell it and use the proceeds. When you are more affluent, you will repay me.” As soon as the man took it, Rabbi Jonah would say, “It’s yours is a gift” (Vayikra Rabbah 34:1).

These stories all have to do with the mitzvah of tzedakah whose source is in this week’s parshah:

“If anyone is poor among your fellow Israelites in any of the towns of the land the Lord your God is giving you, do not be hardhearted or tightfisted toward them. Rather, be openhanded and freely lend them whatever they need…Give generously to them and do so without a grudging heart; then because of this the Lord your God will bless you in all your work and in everything you put your hand to. There will always be poor people in the land. Therefore I command you to be openhanded toward your fellow Israelites who are poor and needy in your land” (Deuteronomy 15:7-8, 10-11).

What we have here is a unique and still remarkable program for the elimination of poverty.

The first extraordinary fact about the laws of tzedakah as articulated in the Oral Tradition is the concept itself. Tzedakah does not mean “charity.” We see this immediately in the form of a law inconceivable in any other moral system: “Someone who does not wish to give tzedakah or to give less than is appropriate may be compelled to do so by a Jewish court of law” (Maimonides, Laws of Gifts to the Poor, 7:10). Charity is always voluntary. Tzedakah is compulsory. Therefore tzedakah does not mean charity. The nearest English equivalent is social justice.

The second is the principle evident in the three stories above. Poverty in Judaism is conceived not merely in material terms: the poor lack the means of sustenance. It is also conceived in psychological terms. Poverty humiliates. It robs people of dignity. It makes them dependent on others – thus depriving them of independence which the Torah sees as essential to self-respect.

This deep psychological insight is eloquently expressed in the third paragraph of the Grace after Meals: “Please, O Lord our God, do not make us dependent on the gifts or loans of other people, but only on Your full, open, holy and generous hand so that we may suffer neither shame nor humiliation for ever and all time.”

As a result, Jewish law focuses not only on how much we must give but also on the manner in which we do so. Ideally the donor should not know to whom he or she is giving (story 1), nor the recipient know from whom he or she is receiving (story 2). The third story exemplifies another principle: “If a poor person does not want to accept tzedakah, we should practice a form of [benign] deception and give it to him under the guise of a loan” (Maimonides, Laws of Gifts to the Poor 7:9).

Maimonides sums up the general principle thus: “Whoever gives charity to the poor with bad grace and averted eyes has lost all the merit of his action even though he gives him a thousand gold pieces. He should give with good grace and with joy and should sympathize with him in his plight, as it is said, ‘Have I not wept for those in trouble? Has not my soul grieved for the poor?’ [Job 30:25]” (Laws of Gifts to the Poor 10:4).

This is the logic behind two laws that are otherwise inexplicable. The first is “Even a poor person who is dependent on tzedakah is obliged to give tzedakah” (Laws of Gifts to the Poor 7:5). The law seems absurd. Why should we give money to the poor so that they may give to the poor? It makes sense only on this assumption – that giving is essential to human dignity and tzedakah is the obligation to ensure that everyone has that dignity.

The second is the famous ruling of Maimonides that “the highest degree of charity, exceeded by none, is when a person assists a poor Jew by providing him with a gift or a loan or by accepting him into a business partnership or by helping him find employment – in a word, by putting him in a situation where he can dispense with other people’s aid” (Laws of Gifts to the Poor 10:7).

Giving someone a job or making him your partner would not normally be considered charity at all. It costs you nothing. But this further serves to show that tzedakah does not mean charity. It means giving people the means to live a dignified life, and any form of employment is more dignified, within the Jewish value system, than dependence.

We have in this ruling of Maimonides in the 12th century the principle that Muhammad Yunus rediscovered in our time, and for which he was awarded the Nobel Prize: the idea of micro-loans enabling poor people to start small businesses. It is a very powerful idea.

In contradistinction to many other religious systems, Judaism refused to romanticize poverty or anaesthetize its pain. Faith is not what Karl Marx called “the opium of the people.” The rabbis refused to see poverty as a blessed state, an affliction to be born with acceptance and grace. Instead, the rabbis called it “a kind of death” and “worse than 50 plagues.” They said, “Nothing is harder to bear than poverty, because he who is crushed by poverty is like one to whom all the troubles of the world cling and upon whom all the curses of Deuteronomy have descended. If all other troubles were placed on one side and poverty on the other, poverty would outweigh them all.”

Maimonides went to the heart of the matter when he said (The Guide for the Perplexed 3:27), “The well-being of the soul can only be obtained after that of the body has been secured.” Poverty is not a noble state. You cannot reach spiritual heights if you have no food to eat or a roof for your head, if you lack access to medical attention or are beset by financial worries.

I know of no saner approach to poverty, welfare, and social justice than that of Judaism. Unsurpassed in its time, it remains the benchmark of a decent society to this day.

Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/judaism/jewish-columns/rabbi-lord-jonathan-sacks/how-to-give/2013/08/01/

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