What Gift to Give?

The WORD – 2/14/13.  I am told that just about now towards the middle of February there is a tradition of giving special gifts to the people we love.  I am still looking for the Talmudic origin of this tradition, but somehow it eludes me.

It just so happens that this week’s Torah portion is entitled “Terumah” which means contribution or gift. At the very beginning of the parashah, we read, “God told Moshe to instruct the Israelites:  ‘V’yikchu li terumah’” – which is typically translated as ‘Bring me gifts.’

It is an odd construction from a grammatical standpoint, and perhaps it can be read a different way.  One rabbinic interpretation is that these words mean: :”Take that which is Mine” – for everything is ultimately God’s.  A second possible reading might be:  “Take of Me as a gift.”

The tapestries and precious metals, which the Israelites were bringing to God, were important, but God models for us that the most valuable gift of all is when we give of ourselves.  Similarly, cards, flowers, candy and jewelry are all wonderful gifts – just as the precious metals, jewels and tapestries that our ancestors brought to God were wonderful gifts – and I would never try to talk anyone out of giving such gifts to a loved one regardless of the date on the calendar.

However, in addition to these tangible, material gifts, there are countless ways that we can give the gift of ourselves to the special people in our lives:

  •  Listening – really listening – when a loved one is talking to us.
  • Giving a hug when a hug is needed – and really, when is a hug NOT needed?
  •  Placing a phone call or sending a text message in the middle of the day for no apparent reason other than to say ‘hi’.
  • Asking a question about something that you know is important in another person’s life.

And I could go on.  We all know ways to give of ourselves; the question is whether we are willing to make time in our crazy, stressful, over-programmed lives to do any of them.  Our tradition demands that we do exactly that.  Following God’s example, let our loved ones take of ourselves as a gift.





About Rabbi Avi Friedman

I am the rabbi of Congregation Ohr Shalom - SJCC, a progressive Conservative and traditional congregation. I am also husband to Jodi as well as father to Gabi, Jonah, Jessica and Ilana. I have been a part of the Summit community since 2005.
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