Iheard that what makes Chanukah different and special is that you get gifts foreight nights. Is that true? Am I really obligated to give a gift everynight?
Actually, there is no obligation to give giftsat all. The mitzvah of Chanukah is to light the menorah each night. We do thisto commemorate the miraculous victory of the Maccabees over the Greek-Syrianarmies, as well as celebrate the great miracle that Gd performed for the Jewswhen they rededicated the Holy Temple. There was only one flask of pure oliveoil to be found, and miraculously the oil burned for eight days. Click here tolearn how to light the menorah.
But yes, in additionto the mitzvah of lighting the menorah, there is a custom to give Chanukah gelt, a gift of money, especially tochildren. Now, should this money be dispensed only once during the holiday, oron a daily basis?
For the most part,the widespread tradition was to give Chanukah gelt once during Chanukah. However, the Lubavitcher Rebbe proposedthat Chanukah gelt be given to thechildren every night of Chanukah, even if the gifts are small. Heres why:
An underlying themeof Chanukah (and Chanukah gelt) isJewish education.
One of the reasonswhy the small band of Maccabees rose up against the mighty Greek-Syrian forcesis that the Greeks were determined to stamp outJudaism by prohibiting the teaching of Torah to the children and forcingHellenism upon the Jewish population. Once the Maccabees were victorious anddefeated the Greeks, it was necessary to renew and redouble the efforts inJewish education. In fact, theHebrew word Chanukah shares the sameroot as chinuch, education.
One of thecomponents of education is providing pupils, especially those who are lessinclined, with rewards and incentives for their learning. Thus, duringChanukah, it is customary to give Chanukah geltto children as an incentive to increase in their Judaism and Torah study.
However, theconnection between education, Chanukah and Chanukah gelt goes much deeper.
When the Greeksoccupied Israel and entered the Holy Temple, part of their intention was toeradicate the concept of holiness and spirituality and place the emphasis onmateriality and hedonism. So rather than simply destroy the holy oil, theydefiled it, symbolizing their attempt to infuse Greek ideals into thelivesand very possessionsof the Jewish people.
Therefore,Chanukah represents our rejection of materiality for its own sake. The best wayto highlight the victory of the Maccabees and how the Jewish ideals triumphedis to impart the lesson that our material possessions, and especially our extraluxuries, are meant to be infused with a higher spiritual purpose.
Thus, when wegive Chanukah gelt, we both celebrateChanukah and teach the recipients to channel their material possessions towardspiritual ends. This is accomplished by teaching them the importance of givingat least 10% (maaser) of the money tocharity,as well as using the remainder for wholesome purposes.
Based on theabove, the Lubavitcher Rebbe emphasized that especially inthese times, when the challenges of education and materialism is so great, thisimportant lesson of Chanukah should not be limited to just one night but ratherevery night (except for Shabbat, when it can be given either before or afterShabbat). However, since the prevalent custom was to only give Chanukah gelt once, usually on the fourth orfifth night, and since if one gets the same reward repetitively it loses itseducational value, the Rebbe proposed giving a larger amount on the fourth orfifth night.
Since givinggifts every night is a means to educate our children, and part of the educationinvolves teaching children about giving a portion to charity, it isntnecessary that the gifts be large, but they should seemingly be actual monetary gifts.
Read more here:
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