Pay It Forward
The story of Chanukah is a story of faith and a story of miracles and its name has a special meaning. The root of the word, “Chanukah” is the Hebrew word “chinuch,” which means “education.” So Chanukah is designed to teach us that the human spirit – not might, or power, or money or prestige – but the human spirit can triumph over any and all difficulties if we are willing to ask for God’s help and willing to let God help us.
There was a rabbi in Spain during the Golden age, who wrote about the message of Chanukah and he said this:
“If any Jew wishes to see a great miracle today, he need only look at himself. The greatest of all miracles is that there is even a single Jew in existence in our day and age.”
What the rabbi said is true, not only for Jews, but it holds meaning for Christians, too. If it had not been the miracle of faith that kept hope alive for the Maccabbe soldiers, all the Jews would have perished. There would have been no more Torah and mitzvot to guide us and no Shabbat candles to commemorate the creation of the world. And, there would have been no Jesus. For Jesus was a Jewish man and if all the Jews had been wiped out by the Assyrians then Jesus would have never been born.
So all of us, Jews and Christians both, owe debt of gratitude to Judah the Maccabbe and his brave band of guerrilla fighters. They made sure that all of us would be here today.
So how do we demonstrate our gratitude? A wonderful movie from about 15 years ago can be our guide. The film is “Pay it Forward,” a powerful story about a young boy, his single mom, and a teacher who took a special interest in him. The boy was asked to do a school project designed to make the world a better place – Tikun Olam, as we Jews call it – and he came up with this idea.
When someone does something nice for you, don’t pay it BACK. Pay it FORWARD. In other words, if someone calls you to cheer you up when you’re sick, pay the favor FORWARD and call someone else and do the same.
If someone does something nice – like what happened to me in Wal-Mart. A lady in front of me saw that I had only two items and she had a basket full. She said, “Go in front of me.” It was so nice. I thanked her so much, and I did.
But what the movie asks me to do is not let it stop there. My task was to look around for something nice I could do for someone else, and in her honor – in honor of the lady who let me ahead of her in the checkout line – and pay it FORWARD. In other words, I must do something good for someone else.
So as we approach the beautiful festival of Chanukah, with our menorahs all around , let the light of friendship, family love and God’s love encourage us to “Pay It Forward.” In honor of the Maccabbes, whose faith and perseverance led to a victory that saved the Jewish people from extinction, in honor of Judah and his brothers and sisters, “pay it forward.”
For every gift and good wish you receive, do something to demonstrate your faith. Light your Chanukah menorah each night beginning December 24 and concluding on December 31. But then do something more. Make some cookies, latkes, or a veggie tray and share it with your friends. Call or visit a senior and alleviate the isolation for someone who is alone. Give a gift to a child and then play the game or read the book together. Talk about Chanukah and what it means with those close to you. Wear a Chanukah button or dreidel earrings and tell the world!
In honor of our brave ancestors, share your joy as a Jew with everyone around you. It’s our way of “Paying It Forward,” – our way of saying to Judah and his little band of soldiers, “Todah rabah” – Thank you so very much