One of our favorite songs at The Davis Academy starts with the words, “We are gifts and we are blessings.” That song, L’dor V’dor, is sung at nearly every special school celebration. We sing it not only because of its moving melody, but because of the many meaningful messages it conveys. As I contemplated what words to share with our Kehilah this Chanukah, the words above kept coming to mind.
If you ask our children, they’ll tell you that they love Chanukah because of the presents. But if prodded a bit, I believe they would inevitably grant that they love Chanukah not only for the presents but for the presence. The mindful and authentic presence of family and friends, gathered around the Chanukiah or at other celebrations—this is what our children value most. They value the loving feelings, the sense of care, protection, support and joy, the intimacy and the connection, that comes from being surrounded by the comforting presence of loved ones and their broader community. The combination of presents and presence more fully explains the true joy of Chanukah. But there’s more still.
“My health, my family, going to a great school, my house, being really good at soccer, getting to play a musical instrument, being a mensch.” When you ask any Davis Academy child what their most valued and valuable gifts are, these are the types of things they share. Together, as parents, grandparents, and teachers, we have instilled in our children an appreciation for the truest gifts of life. These are the gifts that remind us of our humanity and that they are blessed to be able to share. We have also sewn into the fabric of their souls the awareness that each of them is a gift not only to their parents and teachers, but to the world that yearns to be mended through their unique contribution.
This Chanukah let us give the ultimate gifts—the gifts of self, of love, of presence, of quality time, of laughter, of shared activities, of kind words, and of generous attention. How good it feels to give these gifts freely, joyfully, but also with the expectation of something in return. That something in return will be a holiday season that readies us to enter into 2017 with the strength and wisdom that we need in order to keep our focus on the things that matter most to us, our children, and to those we love.