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Why do people give money gifts on Chanukah?

by Rabbi Naftali Silberberg

  

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Do you really need an excuse to give gifts! Well for those of you who are too frugal to give gifts for no good reason whatsoever... here goes:

The word "Chanukah" comes from the same word as "chinuch (education)." The Greeks wanted to make us forget the holy Torah, thus when they were defeated it was necessary to start reeducating the (Jewish people, and especially the) children.

Maimonides writes that it is important to use incentives in order to educate a child (until he/she is old enough to independently understand the importance and beauty of the Torah and Mitzvot). On Chanukah, the holiday which is dedicated to education, we tell the children: "Here is some Chanukah gelt (money1), an incentive for you to study Torah properly."


When giving Chanukah gelt, we also try to educate the children about the importance of giving charity with their own money.2


See also When is the best time to give Chanukah Gelt?

Footnotes

  • 1. The traditional, and preferred, Jewish custom is to give money gifts. Unbeknownst to many, the prevailing practice of giving non-monetary gifts actually stems from the secular practice of giving gifts for the seasonal holidays this time of year.
  • 2. Sources: Hisvaduyos (Lubavitcher Rebbe) 5748, vol. II, p. 65; Hisvaduyos 5749, vol. II, p. 63.

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RELATED CATEGORIES

Holidays » Chanukah » The Customs
Best of AskMoses » Holidays

Torah
Torah is G–d’s teaching to man. In general terms, we refer to the Five Books of Moses as “The Torah.” But in truth, all Jewish beliefs and laws are part of the Torah.
Maimonides
Moses son of Maimon, born in Spain in 1135, died in Egypt in 1204. Noted philosopher and authority on Jewish law. Also was an accomplished physician and was the personal doctor for members of the Egyptian royalty. Interred in Tiberius, Israel.
Mitzvot
Plural form of Mitzvah. Commandments of G-d. Mitzvah also means a connection, for a Jew connects with G–d through fulfilling His commandments.
Chanukah
An eight day mid-winter holiday marking: 1) The miraculous defeat of the mighty Syrian-Greek armies by the undermanned Maccabis in the year 140 BCE. 2) Upon their victory, the oil in the Menorah, sufficient fuel for one night only, burned for eight days and nights.