I remember when I was a young boy that my father would dress as Santa Claus for a neighborhood parade. It seemed a little strange that a Jewish man would assume this role, even as I understood that he was bringing joy to so many people, especially children. I think he was respected and admired for what he did, and I still have a picture of Cantor Greenberg in that role that brought him great satisfaction.
I read this week about Rick Rosenthal, an Orthodox Jew living in Atlanta, who “becomes” Santa Claus each year. “I don’t know anyone who wouldn’t help a child,” said Rosenthal. “If you look at the world as children do, that’s a better feeling. I’m a better person and a better Jew because I’m Santa,” he said. He speaks of the satisfaction that he feels in bringing joy not only to children. He says that patients with Alzheimer’s at senior residences will recognize him even when they can’t recognize their own spouses.
As I learned of this Santa Claus, I thought of our congregation and the way in which we make Christmas a meaningful experience for ourselves. We come together during the week of Christmas to prepare meals for people who are in shelters and others who find themselves in unfortunate situations.
It would be wonderful if you would join in our efforts. Whether donating food or actually helping in the preparation of these meals, your presence will be much valued and yes, you will feel that you have been a part of a great Mitzvah; that of feeding the hungry and helping to lift up the fallen.
I especially like the following description of Santa Claus:
Santa Claus is anyone who loves another and seeks to make them happy; who gives himself by thought or word or deed in every gift that he bestows; who shares his joys with those who are sad; whose hand is never closed against the needy; whose arm is ever outstretched to aid the weak; whose sympathy is quick and genuine in time of trouble; who recognizes a comrade or bother in every person he meets upon life’s common road.
This year, may we be like “Santa Claus,” as we too bring some joy and comfort to people less fortunate than us. (Please see below for details about our “Christmas Mitzvah.”)
Shabbat Shalom,
Rabbi David Greenberg