As the rabbis asked, what is Chanukah? It's the darkest time of the year. One might easily believe that it will never be light and warm again. Natural history proves us wrong. The miracle of the seasons is the evidence.
There's darkness in many parts of the world. One could almost believe that it will never be light and warm for some people again. Jewish history proves us wrong. The miracle of caring is the evidence. We are in the light business. Zot Chanukah -- this is Chanukah.
This Chanukah, plan on increasing the light in the world with special gifts -- the gifts of yourselves. Before Chanukah, play a family game of "Light Up The World." Make the longest list you can of ways you can brighten up the world. It's a game that every family member can play.
The 3-year-old can turn on the lights with kisses and crayoned pictures; the teen can visit with an elderly relative or drive a lonely person to your synagogue for a class or activity. All children can share their plenty -- from warm clothes to the warmth of a gesture of friendship in an invitation to join the lunch table or the extension of a helping hand.
Hang your list in a central location, like the fridge, as a reminder that the world can always use some extra light.
Here are a few suggestions for special gifts:
Make certain that all adults in your family have registered with your local bone marrow registry -- www.giftoflife.com. We can save lives in many ways. The most direct and dramatic is with the gift of bone marrow. Don't miss the opportunity to save a life, and make certain that your children know you are registered. When you give blood, take your children along to watch. Celebrate with a major ice-cream event on the way home!
If your post-teen is going out into the "real world" and leaving childhood behind, make that professional haircut into a gift of new life. Locks of Love accepts donations of unprocessed hair, 10 inches or longer. Donations are made into wigs for children who are experiencing long-term medically induced hair loss. For more information, go to www.locksoflove.com.
Got a clown in the family? Clowning is serious business. It brings life to the ill and lonely. Find out about projects that train "mitzvah clowns" from "Sweet Pea" and "Buttercup" -- a k a Mike and Sue Turk -- at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Is there a teen on the phone in your house? Contact your local school district or senior citizen program. Find out if it runs a phone contact program for children who are home alone after school or lonely senior citizens. Turn your teen-talker into a mitzvah-doer.
Are there animal lovers in your family? Contact your local animal shelter and ask for ways your family can help. You might have some four-legged company on your family's walks. If you are ready for a major animal-related mitzvah, contact your local organization that provides guide dogs for the visually impaired and find out about raising a puppy for their use.
As you bask in the warm glow of the menorah, plan ways of bringing light into our world. Zot Chanukah -- that's Chanukah!