Reflecting on the holidays

Elizabeth Hersh is Senior Rabbi at Temple Emanuel (TE), and a blogger on the Jewish Light’s website (

By Rabbi Elizabeth Hersh

What did the holidays mean to you this past season? For many, it is a time to celebrate family, school holidays and lots of delicious food! However, our culture has brainwashed us to shop, shop, and shop. Whether online or in the stores, we are searching for the magical gift to make someone happy. I am told that children and adults made lists and hand them out so their loved ones will purchase the perfect gift.

Really? What happened to the element of surprise? Remember receiving socks and smelly markers? Perhaps I opened a box containing a special doll or toy that I would play with the entire year. Maybe it was a sweater or new boots. I don’t remember ever having a list.

And to those who yell at me for pulling into a parking spot they thought was theirs or honk when I don’t go through the green light fast enough, where is your sense of spirit of the season? When I was in Jerusalem and enjoying the history of the Second Temple Period, our educator asked what Jesus would think of this time of year humbly named for him. Didn’t Jesus overturn the tables in protest of the abundant wealth of the time? Wasn’t it about helping the less fortunate and not abusing our power over others? Wasn’t he preaching the lessons of the Jewish prophets who chastised us to take care of the poor, the widow and the orphan and to walk humbly with God? Shouldn’t we be adopting more families whose “list” includes toiletries, socks and a warm coat?

Maybe it’s just me but isn’t there more to this season? And what happens to all that good cheer on December 26 when the returns begin? Guess you misread the list. Bah Humbug! Maybe this December will be different.