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Appreciating the Gift of Being Jewish

December 29, 2016 | by Debbie Gutfreund

Four questions to ask yourself.

Rabbi Noah Weinberg zt"l used to ask: If you put an envelope with a million dollar check into a homeless man's cart, but he never opens the envelope, is he rich or still poor?

Often we are searching for something that we already have in our carts but we haven’t taken the time and effort to open the envelope to see the precious gift inside.

Like the gift of Judaism that I sometimes take for granted. The gift that my great-grandparents passed on to their children despite the crushing anti-Semitism all around them. The gift that my grandmother held onto tenaciously as she fought to keep Shabbos in a time and place that ridiculed her commitment to her traditions. The gift that my mother refused to let go of amidst her own struggles to establish herself professionally and did everything she possibly could to give her children a Jewish education so that the gift would not be lost.

Now the gift of being Jewish, like a winning lottery ticket, is in my hand. I am so fortunate to have received this gift of Judaism, this ticket to a sacred connection to our nation and to God. But I need to know how to use it and appreciate it in order for it to matter. I need the gift to be the foundation of my home and the scaffolding of my days.

So I’m asking myself these four questions to make sure I’m appreciating the gift of being Jewish in my life.

1. Am I continuing to learn about my heritage?

Do I read books or attend inspiring classes that will teach me more about our history and the wisdom of the Torah? Do I have a learning partner? Do I listen to ideas that enrich me and bring me closer to my Jewish identity?

2. Am I passing on the gift to my children?

Am I giving them the education that they need to be able to learn about the Torah and their ancestors? Am I giving them the tools that they need to examine their beliefs and their values? Am I showing them how to pray, how to give, how to take pride in their Judaism?

3. Do I support Israel?

Am I doing the best I can to support the Jewish homeland? Do I visit Israel? Do I use the money I set aside for charity to give to Israel? Do I defend Israel? Do I pray for the soldiers who protect our borders?

4. Do I reach out to my fellow Jews?

Do I reach out to other Jews who did not receive the gift of a Jewish education? Do I share my gift with others? Do I invite those who have never experienced Shabbos to my Shabbos table? Do I welcome people who are different from me and open my heart to them? Do I pass the gift of my education along whenever I have the opportunity to do so?

I do not want to start 2017 with a gift sealed in an envelope that I don’t appreciate or value. Finding quality answers in our quest to use the gifts in our lives begins with asking quality questions. What are some other questions about the gift of being Jewish we can ask ourselves? And share in the comment section below what you appreciate about Judaism.

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