• Hi, Rabbi Gellman, this year the adults in my family have decided, instead of gift to each other, we are donating what we would have spent to a veterans organization that helps homeless veterans with food, housing and provides other assistance as needed. Have a safe and happy 2021. — M
  • Purchase a subscription to a magazine or newspaper as a gift. Every new issue is a reminder of your gift. — J
  • You hit the nail on the head as far as homemade gifts. I got a bookmark made by my granddaughter that I get to enjoy every day. My daughter makes the best cookies and garlic pickles, and I leave out empty containers as a subtle hint. Store-bought gifts come and go, but when someone takes the time and effort to make a gift, that's the best. — L
  • I enjoyed your gift selections in today's newspaper, especially the gift of laughter. In college I took what turned out to be a tough but my favorite class, Clowning 101. I used it to create my alter ego, Rudi Kazoodi. As Rudi the clown extraordinaire I made children and adults laugh and painted faces with hearts, butterflies, rainbows, etc. I often used Rudi during my day job a disability coordinator for Head Start. As I aged, my costume changed, and I decided to just use my natural silliness and face-painting skills. When I retired last year, I passed on my paints, brushes and photos to the nurses I worked with. Hopefully, the legacy will live on in these lovely women. You also reminded me of the gifts my sisters and I made when we were kids. My older sister, Robin, started a family tradition one year. She wrapped several boxes inside larger boxes. Inside the smallest box was a piece of paper that said, "Happy Hanukkah!" We also turned orange juice cans into pencil/pen holders, used clay for "ashtrays" (no one smoked anymore) and Popsicle sticks into "houses" or such. Ah, the good old days! May the year 2021 give us all peace of mind and peace of heart! — R

Mailbag: The reality of miracles

  • Well done article. You made me recall a patient with pancreatic cancer who stopped treatment and went home to die peacefully. Six months later she was back in the office and my partner, a former minister, called me to come into the examining room. He said, "Her tumor is gone." I said to her, "Tell me what you did." She said, "Oh, you know. I left my troubles to God." The above is a true story from our office. — Dr. B

MG: Thank you, Dr. B, but in addition to the reality of miracles, I feel the need to include the wise but simple advice of the rabbis, "Do not rely on miracles." (Heb" ayn somchin al ha-nes)

More laughter

And, finally, my new commitment to include jokes in my column, because we need laughter in these grim times and because many questions I receive are really sad:

  • A preacher, a priest, and a rabbit walked into a bar together. The men sat at a table, and the rabbit hopped onto a stool and signaled for a brew. As the bartender placed a drink in front of the rabbit, he asked, "What's up with your two friends?" To which the rabbit replied, "How should I know? I'm only here because of spell-check." — R in Boynton Beach, Florida

And from me, a bar joke that is also about miracles:

A guy sits down at a bar and begins a conversation about dogs with the bartender. The bartender says, "Well, I have a really special dog in the back of the bar. This dog talks. The guy does not believe it, but the bartender brings out a dog who says to the guy, "Yeah, I talk. So what?" The guy is amazed and asks the dog, "Who taught you to speak?" The dog answers, "Well, I used to be owned by a spy and he taught me to talk so I could go on secret missions and report back to him because nobody suspected that a dog could be a spy."

The bartender put the dog back into its cage in the room behind the bar. The guy says, "That was the most miraculous thing I ever saw!" The bartender says, "Look, if you want the dog, I will sell him to you for five bucks." The guy says, "Are you kidding!? You could make millions with that dog. Why would you sell it for just five bucks? The bartender answers the guy, "Well, you know all that stuff the dog told you about being a spy? None of it was true."

SEND QUESTIONS AND COMMENTS to The God Squad at godsquadquestion@aol.com or Rabbi Marc Gellman, Temple Beth Torah, 35 Bagatelle Rd., Melville, NY 11747.

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