Rabbi Marc Gellman writes about religion for Newsday.
QUESTION: Quite some time ago, you answered a question from a grandpa. I kept it for my own grandchildren because it had such wonderful, wise and loving advice, but it is all worn out. Please print it again.
-- N on Long Island, via email
A. I am happy to pass the question and my answer along to you and others who have asked for it. Here goes:
Q. I recently emailed my 8-year-old grandson, Zac, and asked for his Christmas wish list. He replied with the usual things: video games, a remote controlled helicopter and, last on the list, a note from God. This is an amazing request and I would like to honor it and am asking you for your help in fulfilling his wish.
-- J from Landisville, Pennsylvania
A. Dear Zac, My name is Marc Gellman. I am a rabbi and I give advice to people about God in the newspaper. Your grandfather sent me your Christmas list and asked my help in getting you the last thing. I hope you get all the other stuff on your list, especially the remote-controlled helicopter. A few years ago I bought one for my grandson Zeke. The first time I tried it, I flew it right into our dog, Miles, who was sleeping on the couch. He jumped about five feet into the air and when he came down he ate the helicopter. I hope yours works better than mine. Anyway, your grandpa was asking my help in getting you a note from God. I don't know how to do this for you, but what I did do is write you a note by myself that is the kind of note I wish God would send you.
The main thing I want to tell you -- the most important thing I want you to know -- is that I love you and I will always be with you and you should never be afraid because you are never alone. OK, that is not exactly one thing, but it is sort of one thing.
I made you special and I gave you blessings, which means that I made you really good at some things. As you grow up, I want you to figure out what you are good at and I want you to help others who have not figured out their blessings and who might be lonely, poor and afraid. I care about what you do for yourself, but I care more about what you do for others. Be a kind person, Zac.
I also hope you will be honest. The only thing you have that really matters is your good name. Cheaters and liars have given up the only thing I gave them that they can't buy and can't replace. Do the right thing and everything will work out for you; I promise. Be an honest person, Zac.
I hope you can learn to say thank you as easily as you say, "Could I have that?'' Thank you is a sign that you are grateful for what you have. Why don't you start with saying "thank you" to your parents and your grandpa even before you open your presents. Oh, and if you have time, you might thank me for sending Jesus on this, his birthday, which is the real meaning of Christmas. Jesus is the best and only Christmas present a little Christian boy like you needs on his list, and saying thank you is the only price I set for that great gift. Be a good Christian, Zac.
Someday when you are much older like your grandpa is now -- not old but just older -- you are going to have your own grandchild just like your grandpa has you. You are going to love that child just the way your grandpa loves you now. On that Christmas you will know why your grandpa wrote to a rabbi about your Christmas list. On that Christmas, many, many, years from now, your grandpa will be in heaven and Rabbi Gellman will be in heaven. So do me a favor, Zac. On that Christmas Day I want you to find Rabbi Gellman's grandson Zeke, who is about your age now. Tell Zeke the story of how your grandpa asked Zeke's grandpa for help in getting you a note from God. Then wish Zeke a happy Hanukkah and he will wish you a merry Christmas. That is all I want from you now. That is all I want.