Photo Credit: Jewish Press

Dear Mrs. Bluth,

I am appalled and disgusted at what I witnessed during Chanukah and cannot grasp what has happened to the sanity of parents over the last twenty or thirty years. Is it just an American tragedy wherein parents have become the servants of their children, catering to their every whim just to avoid tantrums and shrieking kids in the stores?


I was visiting my sister here in the States, whom I haven’t seen for almost four years, of late due to the pandemic, but when she invited me to come for a few weeks and stay till after Chanukah, I was happy to oblige and excited to see her children after such a long separation. Being a spinster with no children of my own, I so looked forward to spending time and getting reacquainted with my nieces and nephews.

I was mildly irked at how the older children behaved and the lack of respect they had for their parents and how the two youngest ones would throw tantrums if they didn’t get what they wanted. And what they wanted shocked me as well. Being so close to Chanukah, the kids bombarded me with the toys and gifts they wanted, some of them quite costly and, for the most part, not age or hashkafically appropriate. When I consulted with my sister as to what I was to make of their requests, not that I seriously considered buying any of the toys they wanted, my sister informed me that here in the States things have changed in that if the kids did not keep up with their friends by getting the latest electronics or games, they stood to become outcasts. She encouraged me to get them the lesser expensive toys and games.

I was completely worn out looking for things that I felt comfortable giving them, but everywhere I went I found screaming children and completely subjugated mothers/parents trying to negotiate with them over the expense of the items they wanted. And ultimately, the kids won. Huge carts filled with garbage items pandered to these kids through commercials and advertisements for many hours of mindless absorption were wheeled to the checkout lanes by harried and worn out parents, while I stood waiting in line with my few purchases – two scarves and matching gloves – for my two oldest nieces. The woman in front of me turned to look at what I had in my cart and said, “If that’s for a kid, you’re going to be real sorry!” This was the scene that I saw on my next two shopping trips in an endeavor to find playthings I thought would be stimulating, educational and appropriate.

I wrapped the gifts in lovely Chanukah paper and thought I would give each child an envelope with $10 as Chanukah gelt along with their gift. After lighting the menorah, everyone was seated in the living room to receive their gifts, before sitting down to dinner. I was shocked to see the mountain of boxes and the horrible dolls and video games that emerged from those boxes. Then they opened mine. And the room went deathly silent as they looked shocked and disappointed at the things they received from me. Even the $10 that was included with each gift seemed not to measure up to the significantly larger sums they got from their parents, grandparents and other aunts and uncles who joined us for the chagiga. I couldn’t look my sister in the eye, not from embarrassment or hurt, but from disgust and disappointment.

For anyone looking in, the scene was very little different from a gentile home, with only a menorah replacing a Christmas tree. What happened to the essence of Chanukah in your country? It was not always this way. When did the taam of the chag change into a race for the biggest, most expensive gifts, the most lavish window and table decorations? I went home to Eretz Yisroel crushed and disillusioned that Klal Yisroel has fallen so low as to emulate the goyim.

I think I wept during the entire flight home and was never so happy as when I stepped down on the holy land of Eretz Yisroel, where Chanukah is a wonder to behold in its simplicity and beauty, where the telling of the miracles is bolstered by the gifts given, a book/sefer, a game with a Torah theme, a handmade item whereby the giver and the receiver could feel the joy and the love that went into it. I don’t think I’m wrong, but if I am, please explain to me what and where I am mistaken.



Dear Friend,

I understand full well your angst and chagrin as you observed the copious amount of waste attributed to this chag in the way of gifts with little meaning or educational value and the oversight of the importance and meaning of Chanukah. To say this affliction is confined to the States is, sadly, untrue as it has spread around the world wherever Jews congregate. Each generation seems to be moving farther away from the message and the beauty each chag is supposed to commemorate and each generation becomes poorer in their blindness.

It is evident in many homes that derech eretz is lacking, that parents are more tolerant of azus and less willing to repair and educate their children in respect, in acts of kindness and in pride in who they are and from where they come. Our children have become materialistic, putting their value on ‘material things instead of on character, middos and modesty,’ because they have learned from their parents to be that way. Who has the grandest house, the newest car, the latest electrical gadgets. Who buys the most expensive clothes, the fanciest shaitels and who goes on the most exotic and expensive trips. Children learn from example and from the leniency of their elders to correct their behavior by correcting their own!

You can’t expect the schools and yeshivos to teach your children about character, middos and values when you slack off at home. Education is a full-time job and must be enforced in the home, otherwise you get what we have today. A sad and inferior value system with a lot of cracks through which to fall! Perhaps it is time for us to scream less loudly “We Want Moshiach Now” and concentrate on proving we are worthy of his coming. Perhaps it is time to return to being our children’s role models and teach by example, so that we will not have to scream so loud to the Heavens to be heard but will merit the Geulah by virtue of being worthy of it.


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