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What It’s Really About

Listen; I want to tell you a little story: It’s about Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneerson, a prominent American Rabbi during the second half of the 20th century. But really, it’s not about him at all. You see, in the last years of his work, the rabbi spent hours and hours receiving visitors at his office in Brooklyn, NY. Thousands of people came to see him just in his last few years, so there wasn’t a lot of time for each visitor. There were so many that they had to file by his door in a line, but the Rabbi still took the time to greet each one, and he would answer a question, or say a prayer, or offer a blessing for them.

Rabbi Schneerson also gave a gift to each visitor: a single dollar bill. The rabbi’s dollar came with the understanding that it would be passed on by that person to the charity of their choice. He was trusting each person, nearly all of them people he had never met before, to make a choice, and to find something good and worthy to do with that little bit of money. The gift multiplied the value of each dollar: more than just cash, it became a tangible reminder that someone believed in the person who received it, and was depending on them to make a choice to help heal and sustain the world. Each dollar affirmed that the rabbi had recognized the goodness in the person he had given it to.

This December, our congregation is taking the Simple Gifts challenge for the second year in a row. The society we live in is already well into its frenzy of buying and selling. The commercial world teaches us that we should affirm the goodness in other people, particularly the children in our lives, by buying them expensive consumer goods. That is not the lesson we want for ourselves, and it is not the lesson we owe to our children.  So the challenge instead is to literally practice giving Simple Gifts. To focus on showing our love for each other and the trust we have in the goodness of others with creativity and simple acts of loving kindness more than with items bought at the mall.

That should leave each of us with some money (maybe just a little bit, maybe quite a bit more) that we won’t need to spend on gifts this Hanukkah/Solstice/Christmas/generalized-gift-giving season. So we are going to affirm the goodness in our children by trusting them to tell us what to do with it. On Sunday, December 4th, our congregation’s children and young people will vote on the charity that they wish to see our Simple Gifts collection go to benefit. And on Sunday, December 18th, we will collect all the checks, dollars and loose change in order to send it on as our children have directed. We raised over $3,000 last year, and I believe we can do even more this season. So let us be imaginative in our generosity, together. Just as with the rabbi’s dollar, it’s not really about us; it’s about the unimaginable possibilities that result when people practice trusting in each other.


In Faith,

Rev. Kelly Weisman Asprooth-Jackson



First Parish Church

225 Cabot St

Beverly, MA 01915


Office Hours: T-F, 9-1

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