Cultivating Generous Giving in the Season of Shopping

This Thanksgiving, I felt so grateful for the presence of beloved family. Yet I was also mindful of a friend’s recent comment on the need to have sympathy for those who did not have family with whom to share the holiday. Whether by geography, strained or broken relationships, illness and loss, many could not share the holiday with families.

Others endured the indignity of not being able to afford a Thanksgiving meal. Suffering at home on the holiday, or visiting soup kitchens, it can’t be easy to be outsiders in a culture that seems to elevate “things” over people.

The holiday season has crept earlier, beginning around Halloween. That means that for two months the season of “sharing” can be painful for many people.

Isn’t it ironic that the holiday of “thanks” is celebrated with feasts where abundant food is consumed and discarded? Where is the connection of thankfulness to gluttony? What does this mean for our souls?

The greater irony is that the season of “giving” begins on the holiday of “thanks,” as feasting quickly gives way to shopping. It has become a season celebrating conspicuous consumption.

Enter #GivingTuesday, designated for the Tuesday after Thanksgiving – after the Black Friday and Cyber Monday shopping feasts.

Founded in 2012 by leaders at New York’s 92nd Street Y, #GivingTuesday is a global day dedicated to giving back. Its common purpose is: “to celebrate generosity and to give.” It brings together charities, families, businesses, community centers, and students around the world.

How can we give generously? Many of us will write checks to charities at year’s end. These
tzedakah
dollars are essential to countless organizations doing so much good in the world.

Yet, as important as that giving is, it is not enough. The real impact on our world and on our life’s purpose comes through generous acts of doing. By getting involved, we can make a difference in people’s lives while living our values.

Doing good becomes a natural habit through experience. There are many hands-on ways to give. The Jewish Council for Pubic Affairs will participate in the Food Stamp Challenge, starting the Sunday after Thanksgiving, to raise awareness of hunger and poverty in the United States. For one week, participants will limit their food budget to the average food stamp (SNAP) benefit. The Jewish Federation of Greater Metrowest is holding a “Community Challah Bake” to benefit hundreds through Jewish Family Service and local food pantries.

It is important to contribute generously to sustain social justice, learning and religious organizations. But this week, we can commence the season of “giving” with mindfulness of our values and commitment to nurture generous living. True giving won’t be found at stores. It requires a heart-opening to the needs of others, and a commitment to make a difference.

I’ll be at the Challah Bake on Tuesday. How will you get involved?

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