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The Simple Power of Giving

The Simple Power of Giving


My chest tightened as I listened to what my friend was telling me. She said that a neighbor of ours, a young father of five, was very sick. “He’s starting chemotherapy next week . . . ”

This is going to be a long, difficult battle. The wife is overwhelmed. They need meals cooked for them and babysitters to take care of their small children during the weeks of treatments. I sign up for making salads and cooking side dishes on Sundays—thankful that this is something thatA neighbor of ours was very, very sick I can do, thankful that I’m the one making the meals and not the one receiving them. Each neighbor takes a day or offers help watching the children.

I think to myself, “How else can I help this family?” Unfortunately, I don’t have money to give. I can’t buy the children toys or presents. I look at my hands. Thank G‑d, I have my strong hands that give massage and reflexology daily. I quickly tell the friend, “Tell the wife that I want to treat her to a massage. I’m sure that she needs it. And tell me, most importantly, what the husband’s name is so that I can pray for his full recovery?”

In our little observant community, the word spreads fast. Torah classes are dedicated to this man’s recovery. Psalms and prayers are recited. Each one helps in his or her own way.

I prepare the food, whispering prayers for a complete recovery as I chop vegetables. I then take my children with me to help bring it over. The wife answers the door. She thanks me and tells me how grateful she is about the offer for a massage—how much it means to her and how much she needs it. She tells me that she’ll pay for it. I know that this woman has no money, especially not now during these circumstances. I tell her that I insist—that thank G‑d, this is what I can give. She accepts and takes my number to set a time for the massage.

So many thoughts come to me as I sit in my sukkah, surrounded by my husband and children. I am grateful for this week of being with my family. I cook special dishes and we wear our finest clothes, but Sukkot has another side to it whose beauty can be found in simplicity.

During Sukkot, you leave your home and all its luxuries behind. You dwell in a temporary “hut.” Some are bigger, some are smaller, but none of them are like your real home. Through the tree-branch roof you can catch a glimpse of the stars. You feel the wind. You hear noises—birds, cats, cars, neighbors. In the sukkah, you realize that maybe you don’t need so much in order to connect, in order to be, in order to give and to receive.

During Sukkot, we take the arbah minim, the four kinds, which consist of a palm branch (lulav), two willows (aravot), three myrtles (hadassim) and a citron (etrog). We bundle the lulav together with the aravot and hadassim, and hold in our right hand. The etrog (symbolizing the heart) we hold in our left hand. We put our two hands together—connecting all four kinds. The arbah minim represent four kinds of Jews, each with their own strengths and weaknesses. If one species is missing, the mitzvah is invalid. Therefore, each one is vital to the mitzvah, and so, too, is each Jew vital to the Jewish nation.

The heart extends out to the hands. The hand takes all four kinds. Jews don’t need anything more than their heart and their hands, to reach out. Each person has something to offer. Each person has a talent or gift that can help another. This one can help with a meal, and this one with aEach person has something to offer prayer. This one can help with a kind word, and this one with money. Neither is more important than the other.

A friend once told me, “I want to be rich so that I can help people in need.” Her comment was noble and beautiful, but I disagreed. There is no such thing as “so that . . . ” There are many holy women and men who give and give and give, and they have next to nothing monetarily.

During Sukkot, we step out of our homes, out of our fixed mindset (which is confined by a fixed roof and permanent walls), and we enter into the sukkah, which is the world of limitless and yet simple possibilities. We look inside ourselves and ask: “What are my strengths? Where lies my greatness? What gifts did G‑d give me that I can draw strength from? How can I use my heart, my hands to connect, to be present, to receive and to give?”

Originally from northern California and a Stanford University graduate, Elana Mizrahi now lives in Jerusalem with her husband and children. She is a doula, massage therapist, writer, and author of Dancing Through Life, a book for Jewish women. She also teaches Jewish marriage classes for brides.
Sefira Ross is a freelance designer and illustrator whose original creations grace many pages. Residing in Seattle, Washington, her days are spent between multitasking illustrations and being a mom.
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MLK Brockton Ma October 16, 2016

The simple power of giving First I wish the best for this family . To give money and say I have done my share to help out and that's it. For those who can help out by donating money it is a great help also add on giving from the heart is very important But perhaps offering transportation for example to the hospital or any other places would be great also . Reply

Anonymous October 14, 2016

Thank you! Thank you for your beautiful article, I have said the exact same thing your friend has said about money, you've inspired me that I can give more, and to look even deeper to see what more I can do. Thank you for this happy inducing article and I hope your friend's husband will have refuah shelima and for many blessings to all of you in your beautiful community for Sukkot and beyond. Chag Sameach! Reply

Aviva Ny October 14, 2016

Wow! Thank you for the inspiration!
N reminding us of our inner strengths!! Reply

jim dallas October 13, 2016

so little can be so much! a kind word, a drop of money, recognition, respect, sometimes so little can make someones' day better, we try to live by that. i too pray for your neighbor and family, and of course, you and yours. Reply

Thelma queens October 13, 2016

good job. The LORD will bless you. Reply

S U.K. October 9, 2016

Beautiful Thank you for sharing this, I pray the woman's husband is home and well.

May HaShem bless you and your family for all your hard work. Reply

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