In the waning part of the year, when Hanukkah is observed, many people reflect on the things that they are thankful for and think about those who are not as fortunate. It is no wonder that people feel a greater directive to share their bounties with others. And while we all know that need knows no season, it is good to have at least one season during the year when people focus on their opportunities to give back to their communities.

What Hanukkah Is

Hanukkah is the festival of lights and dedication, celebrated in remembrance of the miracle that took place. After the Second Temple was destroyed and defiled by Greek and Syrian fighters, who were eventually driven away by a small band of Jews, the temple was cleaned and rededicated. The temple’s menorah was to burn through the night each night, but after the temple was attacked, there was only enough oil left for one day. The miracle took place when a day’s worth of lighting oil lasted for eight nights. Jews around the world now celebrate Hanukkah in remembrance of that miracle. Traditions for celebrating Hanukkah include lighting the menorah every night, giving gifts, playing games with a four-sided top called a dreidel, and making and eating traditional foods like latkes (potato pancakes) and sufganiyot (jelly donuts).

For Those in Need

In the Chicago area there many Jews who rely on Jewish United Fund supported food pantries to help them make ends meet. After all, not all food pantries are able to meet the specific dietary requirement of observant Jews. Meanwhile, even more Chicago area Jews in need depend on holiday care packages from Maot Chitim to help them observe the holidays in a dignified and traditional manner for Rosh Hashanah and Pesach.

More Than Latkes and Dreidels

During this season when we reflect on miracles and the bounties God has bestowed on us, it is important to share what we have received with those who have less. In this way, we show God our gratitude by being a part of His continuing miracles.

What You Can Do

Since 1908, Maot Chitim has been helping Jews in the greater Chicago area by providing much needed food packages so that families can observe the holidays in a traditional and dignified manner. You can help Maot Chitim help others by volunteering. Volunteers give of their time and help put together care packages and make deliveries. You can also donate money which provides the supplies that Maot Chitim passes along to those in need. If you would like to help, you can contact Maot Chitim here. Be a part of the miracle by sharing some of the bounty you have been fortunate enough to receive.

Miracles are All Around Us as Evidence of God’s Love

One facet of Judaism is the belief in miracles. For example, Hanukkah, also called the Festival of Lights was created during the second century B.C.E.  to commemorate a miracle. After the people of Israel defeated the Syrian-Greeks in the Maccabean Revolt and reclaimed the Holy Land, spiritual leaders went to the Holy Temple in Jerusalem.

Upon entering the temple, they found only one cruse of olive oil (enough for one day) left uncontaminated and used it to light the menorah. Instead of only lasting one day the oil miraculously lasted for eight days. Hanukkah symbolizes the miracle by lighting one candle in the menorah each night for eight nights.

What is a Miracle?

Ancient Jewish writings describe miracles as fact. Remember that before science existed no one considered any explanation other than divine intervention. An unusual occurrence that was beyond understanding demonstrated that God is reaching into the physical world. Modern Science would call this a supernatural event because it suspends natural laws.

Others would argue that the existence of an ordered universe (God’s creation) is the greatest miracles. If you believe in the power of God, you must accept that miracles happen: however, they may not always be in the form you expect. Many miracles go unrecognized, but that doesn’t lessen their impact on the lives they touch.

The Miracle of Giving

The whole point of faith is trusting that God does intervene. Perhaps the best you can do is follow God’s example and strive to create little miracles in His name. Share kindness by becoming involved with charitable contributions. Without fanfare, and not for personal glory, but because help is needed and because it is right, and it honors God.

You should use the holidays to share with others. Spread God’s love and inspire people around you to do the same. Get involved in the Jewish community in your area by helping with charitable contributions. Get busy and create a miracle.

The mission of Maot Chitim is not only to provide food for those less fortunate than ourselves, during Hanukkah and all year long. Whether it packing boxes, making deliveries, or donating dollars so there is food to provide, we provide many opportunities to give of oneself. Please contact us or visit our website for more information on how to be part of someone’s holiday miracle.

Why Giving Back is Important Around the Holidays 

Holidays are a time to give thanks for all that you have, and what better way to do this than by giving back to those around you?

Charities exist is to provide a crucial need that is being unfilled, whether it be for food, for shelter, for medicine, or for other necessities. When you donate money, you are helping someone who is less fortunate have a better chance at living a happy and fulfilling life. That person is someone’s daughter, someone’s mother, someone’s son, or someone’s father. That person could be your neighbor, your co-worker, or your friend. Giving is a selfless act that greatly benefits the community in which you live. It can help feed the hungry, clothe the naked, and shelter those without homes. It can help mend a tired and broken spirit.

They say it’s better to give than to receive, but is it really? Believe it or not, charitable donations can lead to improved physical and mental health. According to a study by Harvard professor Michael Norton, giving money to someone else was found to make a person happier than if they were to spend it on themselves.

A different study conducted in 2006 found that participants who gave of themselves, whether it be through charitable donations or charitable acts, had lower blood pressure than those who were not involved in any charitable work.

In 2007, a study on the benefits of giving showed that those who volunteer benefit from improved heart health overall, not just in regards to blood pressure, experiencing a lower chance of suffering from heart disease when compared to people who do not volunteer. Recently, a 2013 study even found that charitable work can increase longevity. Participants of this study who engaged in volunteer work outlived those who abstained from volunteering by an average of 22%!

The mission of Maot Chitim is not only to provide holiday food for those less fortunate than ourselves, but to offer an opportunity to give of oneself as well. We provide hands-on volunteer experiences for all ages. Whether it be building boxes, packing food, delivering boxes, or donating dollars so there is food to provide, we are there for you. Please contact us or visit our website for more information on opportunities to give back during the holidays.