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November 29, 2013

The True Gifts of the Holidays

http://www.jewishjournal.com/blog/item/the_true_gifts_of_the_holidays/

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By Rabbi Mark Borovitz

As we celebrate Hanukkah and Thanksgiving, I keep thinking about gifts and people. Not the material gifts people give; rather the spiritual, emotional and mental gifts we share with each other. I am blessed with many natural abilities, by this I mean gifts from God, my upbringing and my environment and teachers. I find that many of us, like me, don't always appreciate these gifts enough and sometimes downplay them to such an extent that we are embarrassed by them.

Thanksgiving is an American Holiday where we remember the gifts of our ancestors and founding fathers. The gifts of heroism, hope and love of freedom. The same is true of the Maccabees. Their gifts of hope, courage and love of God ring throughout this holiday. Hanukah is also a time of dedication/re-dedication. The same must be true for Thanksgiving.

Which brings me to us. This time, when the days are shorter and the nights are longer, when darkness envelops our world, we must rededicate ourselves to the Principles and Values that have guided our ancestors and our heroes. These values include:

1. Justice—in our tradition, justice must be righteous. We learn this in Parshat Shoftim. We are commanded to pursue righteousness and justice. This means no matter what went before, we have to look at our lives and decisions in new light and with a fresh pair of eyes.
2. Compassion—we are all here because of God's compassion and the compassion of those who have blazed the trails before us. In order to honor these facts, we have to practice them daily. We have to take care of the poor, the orphan, the widow and the stranger!
3. Truth—since God is Truth and God is everything, we have to remember that none of us alone has the whole story. Our commitment has to be to keep learning and being in community so that we can hear and understand nuances that escape us.
4. Love—just as we love God, so too do we have t love the Tzelem, the God-image in everyone. We have to continue to wrestle with ourselves and others to help everyone hear the "still small voice of God" within each of us.

Wow, what an order! How can we ever attain this? By following the example of Judah in this week's Torah portion, Miketz. Judah is able to convince his father, Jacob, of his trustworthiness because he suffered loss of his own sons and loss of his own dignity with Tamar. He was unafraid last week to admit his errors and this Tshuvah gave him a new sense of dignity and confidence that he transmitted to all he encountered. When we do Tshuvah through the 3 R's of Judaism—Repentance, Return and Response—we become a new/old person who exudes confidence and commitment. This, in turn, helps us and guides us to live the principles enumerated above and more.

I ask you all to do your own Chesbon HaNefesh, Accounting of your Soul, and change what needs to be changed, repair what needs to be repaired, and live our shared principles and values. I am grateful for the opportunity to do this each day. I am sorry to anyone I harm when I don't. Shabbat Shalom, Hag Sameyach, Rabbi Mark

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