Judaism stresses the importance of giving. We are taught to tithe, to give a percentage of our earnings whether monetary or material, to those less fortunate than ourselves. We are taught to give of our time and volunteer for worthy causes. Every one of these instances of giving involves sacrifice. We are required to give away something that we have. When we give money, we sacrifice whatever we were going to buy ourselves with that money. When we give time, we sacrifice whatever we were going to do with our family, friends, or ourselves. It seems that giving to someone else, by definition, involves taking away from ourselves.
However, there is something we can give that does not diminish our own supply. And that is Thanks. Giving thanks is like giving love – the more you give, the more you get. Judaism compares giving thanks to giving flame from a candle. When one candle ignites another, the flame from the first does not diminish in size – it is not affected at all. Now both candles are lit, and the light itself has doubled in size. Now if each of those candles lights another, we have four times more light than we had when we began. No flames burn down and gutter from lighting another flame. On the contrary, the light and warmth of that one candle grows exponentially with each passing moment. And, at the very moment of giving, when the second candle ignites and for a brief moment, the two are together, that flame is enormous.
When we give thanks – thanks to God or thanks to other people, we brighten their day just a little bit. When we share a smile, we offer others a tiny glimpse into the warm spark of God implanted within each of us. This spark is just like that candle. The spark of God found in each one of us can light the fire inside someone else. They, in turn, can light the sparks of others until we have warmed up the entire world from the inside out.
November is the month of Thanksgiving. I urge us all to use this month as a jumping off point. Don’t let this holiday go by with only a cursory thought to thanks – instead learn from our daily prayers. Our prayerbook has a section called “Nissim B’chol Yom” – “The miracles of every day.” Every single day contains a moment worthy of thanks. Not just that special Thursday in November – every day. So every day has at least one moment when we can share that gratefulness with someone else. Every day has a time when our inner spark of God can shine and light a fire inside someone else. And we can do this simply by giving – giving thanks.
So thank someone for something small and insignificant. Perhaps the act worthy of thanks was small, but the act of thanking may be bigger than you think. Let no good deed done to you go unnoticed. Share your flame. Together, as the days grow colder, we can spread some warmth and some light.