By Rabinessa Liora Kelman
As a Jewish person, I grew up knowing that giving is a special act of lovingkindness and that tzedaka is especially important. In performing an act of kindness, we are rewarded by a positive feeling of warmth stemming from our sense of connection to those we’ve helped. It is chiefly through empathy that the neshama communes with other neshamot.
It wasn’t until I married Rabbi Kelman that I fully appreciated that, not only did an isolated act of kindness have the power to generate many more acts of kindness, but that it also had the power to generate a return. This became a motto for us to live by; when you give, you gain. Tzedaka is one of the rare mitzvot for which the Torah promises a “specific reward.” In the case of tzedaka, G-d assures us, “I will shower you with blessings without end.” However, there is more to the pasuk; “Send your bread upon the water; in due time it will return to you.”
“You will see,” Rabbi Kelman assured me, “this indeed happens and oftentimes it happens even sooner than you’d expect.” And it did. Some years ago, we lost a dear friend. He left behind a young widow with 10 children. The family lived in Israel and was struggling. It happened that around Chanukah time, we felt it would be most meaningful for us to give Chanukah Gelt to those kids. We knew that our own kids were very lucky in that they had both parents to care for them and could do without.
Chanukah passed by; it was a very busy holiday as usual, and, about two weeks later, I had the chance to speak to my friend and learn from her how she and the children were doing. After a long chat about her children’s activities and a warm “Thank You, my friend,” I hung up the phone. That very moment, the doorbell rang. At the door was a woman I had never seen before holding an envelope and saying, “Mrs. X is so sorry; it is already two weeks after Cha- nukah. This is Chanukah Gelt for your kids.” You can imagine my amazement when I opened the envelope and found the exact amount which we had sent the children in Israel.
“It‘s no coincidence,” Rabbi Kelman told me, “as the Torah promises: when you give, you gain.” Whether it comes in the shape of Chanukah Gelt, or good news, or in the forming of new friendships, an act of kindness is rewarded, becoming a blessing not only for the recipient but also for the giver.
If we pay closer attention in our daily lives we can come to realize that this story is merely one of many such stories that occur continually to all of us.
Happy Chanukah Gelt, and happy giving, now and always.