Yesterday I read an incredible blog post by Edgar M. Bronfman in The Washington Post‘s “On Faith” section. I believe Bronfman’s article, “Create a holy Hanukkah,” was penned with the sole purpose to encourage North American Jews to think more deeply about the gifts we choose to give our children on Chanukah. Rather than summarize what he said, I will excerpt the essence of his charge for you:
This Hanukkah, instead of the traditional gelt, take your Judaism into your own hands and write a blessing for each child; pick a special night for each during the eight day period of candle lighting. Tell them why you are grateful for them in your life and what your dreams are for them. It will be one of the greatest gifts they ever get, and one of the greatest you will ever give.
Many children might still prefer gelt at the moment, but this is an opportunity for you to give something greater: a moment to connect them to yourself, your family, and the Jewish people. By enacting Jewish values that place the home and the written word as being of the highest value, it will instill in them Jewish pride and a feeling of being safe, loved and treasured. It is also a gift no one else can give to them. We can substitute possessions, but not family or love. That is an important lesson to remember in all traditions, and year round (Retrieved on 12/21/11 through The Washington Post’s Social Reader).
As soon as I read these paragraphs I knew exactly what I had to do. I had to write Isabelle a special blessing as her Chanukah gift*. Bronfman suggested “if you decide to write a blessing, it can be an opportunity to educate yourself about the Jewish figures in history you most admire and to teach your children and yourself about who these people are.” I got to work immediately, researching a variety of Jewish matriarchs (e.g., Hannah, Miriam, and Penina) on the internet with the hope I’d find inspiration for the blessing I wanted to write for her. However, matriarch after matriarch, I found myself devoid of inspiration. I put my research aside for awhile and began to think about what it was I wanted to say to her. I thought the hopes and dreams I have for my daughter. I thought that instead of focusing on the quality of a particular matriarch I wanted to compare her to, perhaps I could focus on the wishes I have for Isabelle so that I could write her a blessing.
I quickly found that writing a blessing is not so simple. In fact, it’s hard work. It’s a genre I don’t have any experience with and one I feel ill-equipped to write. However, I know it doesn’t have to be perfect. Rather, it has to come from the heart.
I realize most of the people reading this blog post are not Jewish and therefore do not celebrate Chanukah. However, I think Bronfman’s article can be inspirational for those who celebrate Christmas too. In this age of over-consumption and 24/7 connectedness, writing a blessing for someone you love is something that can hold greater meaning and value than a cozy sweater or a box of Belgian chocolates. Writing a blessing shows your care and concern for the other person. It takes time to craft just the right words. To write a blessing is to give someone a gift unlike any other. It’s much harder to write a blessing than to buy a gift at the local department store. However, writing down your words as a prayer for a special person in your life, to me, seems like one of the most wonderful gifts you can ever gift, even if it isn’t fully appreciated (i.e., by your child) at this moment in time.
*=My daughter isn’t even one year old yet, so my husband and I decided not to give her Chanukah presents this year.
I am a literacy consultant who focuses on writing workshop. I've been working with K-6 teachers and students since 2009. Prior to that, I was a fourth and fifth-grade teacher in New York City and Rhode Island.
I'm the author of Craft Moves (Stenhouse Publishers, 2016) and the co-author of Jump Into Writing (Zaner-Bloser, 2021), Welcome to Writing Workshop (Stenhouse Publishers, 2019), and Day By Day (Stenhouse, 2010).
I live in Central Pennsylvania with my husband and children. In my free time, I enjoy swimming, doing Pilates, cooking, baking, making ice cream, and reading novels.