Kislev: Releasing Fear, Growing in Generosity
Rabbi Marc Margolius
The month of Kislev represents a minefield of challenges. The deep spiritual message of Chanukah—to seek out light, hope, and optimism in the midst of darkness and despair – can easily be eclipsed by the rampant materialism of the “holiday season.” Adults and children alike are bombarded with messages reminding us of material things which we supposedly lack.
In mindfulness practice, we are able to notice the external stimuli assailing our senses, the sales offers flooding our inboxes and filling the airwaves. We duly note the internal stimuli, the thoughts and reactions they elicit, such as desire, envy, fear of having /being less than others. And we apply wise discernment in deciding freely when and whether to respond to these messages.
Sounds easy enough—but fear is a powerful emotion. It is human nature to be afraid that we and those we love won’t have enough. That’s why it’s important to connect our awareness in such situations to a middah, a spiritual/character trait—in this case, the middah of nedivut (generosity).
In Deuteronomy’s description of the shmita year, the Torah enjoins that when the sabbatical year approaches, along with the requirement that we forgive debts that are owed us, we must actively cultivate the quality of generosity. “Do not harden your heart and shut your hand against the needy,” the text says, “Rather, open, open your hand and lend that which is needed” (Deuteronomy 15:7-8). “Give, give readily and have no regrets when you do so” (Deuteronomy 15:10).
Many of us will make end of year charitable donations during Chanukah and in the remaining days of 2014. Tzedakah is not only a way of providing for those in need; it’s a way of training ourselves in nedivut (generosity).
As we sit with our checkbooks, or in front of our computer screens, before we decide on an amount that we will contribute to each cause, may we pause and breathe. May we notice, without judging, any fear of scarcity arising within us. May we notice our hands beginning to tighten. May we take another deep breath, gently release it, and open our hand, increasing the amount we’d originally planned to send. In this year of releasing fears, may we grow—even incrementally—in our capacity to be generous with our hearts and our wealth.