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The Great Chanukah Gift Guide  

I know I’m not the only one with these difficult dilemmas

Shlomo Hamelech in Sefer Mishlei tells us, “Sonei matanos yichye” (16:27).

Okay, I get that the wisest of all men specifically refers to accepting gifts, but hey, I’m determined to live a really long life. So I take it up a notch and hate it both ways.

Don’t get me wrong. Once a gift is carefully chosen and purchased, the poem written, and the entire thing wrapped and hidden, I look forward to seeing the recipient’s face light up. I also take great pleasure in showing appreciation to the many special people who’ve touched my life over the year.

But until that happens — until the gift wrapping is finally unwrapped and the recipient’s face does, in fact, light up — gifts fill me with dread. Here’s why:


1. We’re talking about Chanukah gifts, but for some reason, certain little people confuse the thing with afikomen. A gift you ask for loses the title gift, sweeties, and I’m sorry, but Gameboys are still not welcome in our house.

2. Not only do certain little people confuse the thing with afikomen, certain big stores do too. If I thought our toy closets contain every single toy that’s ever been manufactured, but then the infamous Catalog arrives, and, between breaking up fights over who gets it first and trying to hide those torn yetzer hara papers, I learn how deprived my kids really are, how many Playmobil sets (and Gameboys) they truly lack.

3. I hate making decisions, and buying gifts is all about making decisions. Big decisions, with big impacts. You can either make a kid’s life by gifting him or her with the thing (read: Gameboy) he or she had been not-so-silently hankering after from the day the Catalog arrived. Or you can… nothing. There really is no alternative.

4. Coming up with the right gift for everyone takes too much brainwork. Bottom line, I don’t really dislike giving (okay, fine, or getting) gifts all that much. What I hate so much is the pressure of coming up with the right thing to give each person. I turn to you for validation. And ideas.


I know I’m not the only one with these difficult dilemmas. Proof: The Catalog. And also, my sisters’ questions.

What should I buy for Mordechai? He wants his own drill. Do I get a 13-year-old his own drill?

Should I get Leah earrings or will she feel like it’s something I would’ve gotten her anyway and it’s not a real gift?

Do I get her a Gameboy? DO I GET HER A GAMEBOY? No, I’m NOT getting her a Gameboy.

The time has come for an open conversation. We’re all in this together, let’s talk it out. Tachlis, what do you give?


Parents to kids: 

This is where you offer your brilliant and original ideas. I’m listening.

Parents to bochur: 

His own drill.

Grandparents to grandchildren:

I’m sure all teens need yet another personalized travel bag, because the last five they got must have torn or gotten lost between their many travels. And I’m sure every mother would appreciate yet another toy consisting of 500 pieces of choking hazards. Or a drum set.

Give up. Give their parents money (you’ll do so anyway, read on) and tell them to buy those gifts. They’re breaking their heads anyway, let them break it twice. Besides, they have the Catalog — they should know exactly what their kids want.

Parents to couples:

Money. Money. Money. In sealed envelopes. With dire warnings to spend it on a gift, a real gift. Because we all know how money in an envelope will ultimately be spent. Say it along with me — cleaning help.

Couples to parents:

Blank. Year after year, the answer remains: blank. We’ve tried it all, but really, how many sets of dessert cups do grandparents need? Find me a couple who married off all their kids and doesn’t yet own: Bentshers with embossed initial. A centerpiece on the dining room table. A centerpiece on the dinette table. A pretty challah cover. A prettier challah cover. I keep repeating it on the sibling group text when they ask “What do we buy?” yet again: BLANK.


I’ve said it before, I’ll say it again: Money. (And poems, but not if you’re going to ask me to write it for you.)


It doesn’t matter what you buy, as long it’s brand name. Michele watches and Pandora bracelets work (until further notice), but you can do a crossbody bag or even an umbrella, as long as it’s got the desired logo in place.


I’m talking about teen babysitters. Niece babysitters. The ones who faithfully show up with their history notes and decline the invitation to your freezer and pantry. “Thanks, I’m on a diet, just tell me where your cordless phone is.”

I love you, Molly, Leah, Shaindy, and Yachy. You have no idea what a huge help you girls are and how much I appreciate your eagerness to spend your nights in my house. I wish I could buy each of you a Michele watch and a Pandora bracelet, but yeah, if I would do that, paying babysitters would’ve come out a lot cheaper. Besides, who do you think babysat you all those years while your mothers attended simchahs when you were babies?

I’ve been breaking my head what to get you, and it hit me, what can be better than a public shout-out in Family First?

Okay, okay, I do need you girls back; I have simchahs coming up. How’s this? I’m inviting you out one night of Chanukah — if we can find a night when we’re all available. (Refer to “The Grand Annual Super Fantastic Extended Adler [pseudonym, yes]Family Party,” Family First, Windows, December 13, 2017.) Yes, I mean it. Stay tuned for details.

(Uh, but I’ll need one of you to babysit…)


(Originally featured in Family First, Issue 770)

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