The Best Gift is You

The 2023 Winter Solstice began at 7:27pm last night. No matter your religious tradition we all live on the same planet and those of us in the northern hemisphere have reached the darkest point of the year. For a few days the amount of daylight will remain the same and then, gradually, the minutes of sunshine will increase. I pray that this physical light brings a light of peace and greater kindness around the globe. Let’s do our best to embody that kindness.

If you are celebrating Christmas on Monday, give yourself over to it. If you will be having Chinese food (I’ll be having Burmese food!) and watching a movie, embrace it. If the December holidays have been a difficult push-pull for your relationship, admit it to yourself and your partner. Determine to figure out a better approach in the coming year. Just email me and we’ll look for better options together.

I read something that spoke of the “blessing of both” Hanukkah and Christmas for kids. They went on to say that kids get twice as many gifts. I was stopped in my tracks. Really? It is a blessing to be sated with gifts? More is better? Materialism is a better way of life? Exactly ZERO scientific studies have found this to be true. Not just for interfaith families, but for single faith families who go overboard with presents. What, you may ask, could be wrong with it?

*You are teaching your brain and your children that THINGS are the best part of life.
*You are associating happiness with material consumption.
*You are not giving of yourself and your time.
*You are not building a bond based on interpersonal interaction.
*You are not teaching generosity.

Consider gifts of time and love
Reading time with anyone, child or adult, is a warm, shared memory.
I vividly remember my father sitting in the tiny hallway between our bedrooms reading to us at bedtime. He read us The Hobbit before we were old enough to read it to ourselves.

Baking/cooking together.
I have spent so many hours making so many foods with so many family and friends. I have treasured memories, like the cookie that was renamed “Debbie’s Mistake” because we friends liked her made-in-error cookies better than the original.

Conversations – whether a random wander through current experiences or a caring ear for a friend in pain or a memory review with a sibling or paging through old photo albums with children – build bonds of love and sharing.

Hobbies are great shared with kids, grandkids, daughters-in-law, etc. Whether you repair old cars, write stories, hike, work with wood, sew or paint, share time doing it with someone you want to be closer to.

Long after he had forgotten every single gift ever given by his grandfather, a man told me he remembered the hours they spent together under the hood of a car. He told me it shaped his life.

Several Introduction to Judaism classes will begin in January. Here are the first two I’ve found.

Introduction to Judaism
Temple Sinai in Oakland and Temple Beth El in Berkeley are joining together to offer Introduction to Judaism beginning in January 2024. Learn with Beth El and Sinai clergy about the rituals, holidays, beliefs, big questions, and complexities of Judaism in a welcoming and communal environment. This class is open to all — the Jewish adult who wishes to discover or deepen Jewish knowledge, non-Jews with a Jewish partner or just curious to learn more about Judaism, or those considering choosing Judaism. Participants register for each trimester separately and trimesters may be taken in any order.

Dates:  Begins Wednesday, January 10, 2024
First trimester dates (at Temple Sinai in Oakland): 1/10, 1/17, 1/24, 1/31, 2/7, 2/21, 2/28, 3/6
Second trimester dates (at Beth El in Berkeley): 3/13, 3/20, 3/27, 4/10, 4/17, 5/1, 5/8, 5/15
Time:   7:00pm
Place:   Temple Sinai, 2808 Summit St., Oakland, in the library (In-Person Only)
Cost:    $100/eight-week session. If cost is a barrier, please reach out to Rabbi Bressler.
Register Here

Introduction to Judaism
Taught by Rabbi Mark Bloom this class is open to anyone and everyone interested in learning about Judaism. Those interested in converting, those who are just exploring, or those who feel they have “gaps” in their Jewish learning are all welcome.  It will run for approximately 12 weeks and will cover Jewish texts, holidays, the Jewish life cycle, prayer, the Holocaust, Israel, and other topics within Judaism.

Dates:  January 24, 31 & February 7, 21, 28 & March 6, 13, 20, 27 & April 3, 17
(note that dates are subject to change)
Time:   7:30 to 8:30pm
Place:   Beth Abraham, 327 MacArthur Blvd, Oakland
Cost:    $36 (free for a significant other if they want to take it along with you), and one should purchase the book “How to Run a Traditional Jewish Household” on their own.
For any questions and to sign up, please contact Rabbi Bloom directly,