Giving Gifts

June 23, 2009

6 min read


Parshat Zachor (Deuteronomy 25:17-19 )

Purim is a day of joy. God wants us to go out of our way on Purim to have a good time - eat, drink, and be merry! - and give to those in need. On Purim we make sure to give charity to at least two poor people (called matanot l'evyonim in Hebrew) to spread joy in our hearts and theirs, and make the world a happier place.

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In our story, a kid discovers the Purim spirit and taps into the joy of spreading joy.


      As soon as Footlite Shoes advertised their annual 'two pairs for one' sale, Jackie Fields trudged through the sludge to get the best selection of their new spring styles with the money her grandparents had just given her for her birthday.

      As she was about to walk into the store, she noticed a small figure standing outside and staring into the big store window.

      It was a girl a few years younger than she was. Even though it was really cold outside, the kid was wearing only a raggedy looking sweater, and on her feet, instead of proper boots, the kid was wearing only sneakers lined with tall plastic bags.

      'That's strange,' Jackie thought to herself. But she was in too big of a hurry to get to the great looking shoes on display to really think about it too much.

      Once inside the store, Jackie slipped off her own warm boots and excitedly tried on one pair after another until she found some great shiny, patent leather shoes that would be just right for formal occasions. Now it was time to pick the other pair. Hmm, maybe some cool suede casuals or perhaps some sandals...

      Jackie picked out the perfect second pair and paid. She couldn't wait to get home to show her new 'two for one' birthday goodies to her sister. As she walked out, she noticed out of the corner of her eye that the girl she'd seen before still had her nose up against the window.

      As Jackie made her way along the slushy sidewalk and felt cold in her down parka, the sight of the girl staring longingly in the window kept returning to her mind.

      The kid was obviously from the poor neighborhood nearby and was dressed like that because she didn't have anything warmer to wear. How sad it must be for her to watch people happily picking out brand new spring designer shoes when she didn't even have a simple pair of boots to wear on her feet.

      Jackie felt bad for the girl. She had just learned in school how Purim was a special time of year to help the less fortunate, but there was really nothing she could do to help her. Her wallet was empty, as she had just spent all her birthday money on two beautiful pairs of shoes.

      Suddenly an idea popped into her mind. But how could she? At first she tried to ignore the idea, but then turned around and started walking, then running, hoping it wouldn't be too late...


* * *


      "Here you go, miss," the sales clerk said, handing Jackie the package who just exchanged shoes she had bought five minutes ago.

      "No, don't give it to me. See the girl right outside the window without any boots? Please give them to her! I don't want to embarrass her so please do me a favor and give them to her. Tell her, 'Happy Purim!' "

      "That is so kind of you! It would be my pleasure."

      As Jackie looked on from inside the store, the sales lady hurried outside and tapped the girl on the back. "Happy Purim!" she said, handing the girl the shiny shopping bag containing a brand-new pair of warm, cozy winter boots. The kid's eyes lit up and she mumbled an amazed 'thank you.'

      "Someone who cares bought them for you, my dear."

      Once the girl left, Jackie headed back home, as if gliding on air. Somehow, giving away half her birthday gift made her feel not like she had less - but much more.

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Ages 3-5

Q. How did Jackie feel when she first saw the poor kid staring in the window?
A. She felt bad, but didn't think there was any way to help her.

Q. How did she feel in the end?
A. She felt great she was able to give somebody something they needed and would make them happy.


Ages 6-9

Q. What did Jackie discover that day?
A. She discovered that as good as it felt to get something for herself, it felt even better to be able to give to others.

Q. It's easy to understand why it feels good to get something, but why do you think it feels good to give something away?
A. Each of us has a part that is deeply connected to God and gets tremendous spiritual pleasure by acting as Godly as possible. Since God is the ultimate giver, when we give to others, we are acting Godly and the pleasure we feel is much deeper and long-lasting than the pleasure we get by receiving.

Spiritual exercise: On Purim (March 14th this year), give charity to the needy as a way to spread joy in the world.


Ages 10 and Up

Q. Is it possible to be truly happy while others are sad and lacking? Why or why not?
A. Although we may be able to drive thoughts of other's lack from our consciousness, deep down as long as others lack we can never truly be satisfied. On the deepest level we are all one and one person's lacking is our lacking as well.

Q. How do you think the world would look if each of us was as motivated to give as to receive?
A. It would almost be unrecognizable. Nobody would lack anything since the world has more than enough of everything to go around if we were willing to freely share our talents and resources. Our sages teach that in the future we will grow spiritually enough to reach this level. Although this vision is perhaps unfeasible at present, we can at least help move things in the right direction by helping others when we can.

Spiritual exercise: On Purim (March 14th this year), give charity to the needy as a way to spread joy in the world.


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