Ari’s First Tax Break, err Mitzvah

Sorry Ari, these aren't all for you.

Since Kveller welcomed our baby, Ari Judah, we’ve been doing typical newborn activities. Eating, sleeping, staring into space, and eating some more. In between, my family helped to open all of the wonderful and gracious presents from family and friends. Our living room had so much wrapping paper it looked like the gift center of Macy’s on Black Friday.

All of the gifts were recorded in a spreadsheet (thank you notes to come soon, Ari promises) and most were put away in his room. A few things have been returned or exchanged. But after opening all of the presents, we were left with a pretty sizable pile of “What Should We Do With These?” gifts. Outfits that weren’t our style, duplicates of books, an excess of blankets, gifts from stores far away.

It was during one night of opening that our amazing baby nurse was talking with my mom and mentioned that she volunteers in a woman’s shelter down near her home.  They never have enough baby clothing. And all of the sudden all of our minds starting working together in unison. We put all of those “What Should We Do With These?” gifts in a big bag and handed them to our nurse Josie. “Please take them,” we told her.

Does Ari know that he’s doing a mitzvah? Nope. He doesn’t even know when he pushes his pacifier out of his mouth where it went. But are we starting to teach him the important values of Judaism and our family? Absolutely.

Some of my relatives believe that there is no such thing as too much baby clothing or toys. I whole-heartedly disagree. First of all, he’d outgrow sizes before he could wear everything we received. But more importantly, we’re trying to teach our son that overindulgence is a dangerous habit.  It’s much better to be spoiled with love, family, and security.

Every year growing up, one night of Hanukkah my parents didn’t give my sister and I presents. Instead we picked a charity and donated money there. One of my favorites to this day is the Minnie Hexter Milk Fund started by the National Council of Jewish Women in Dallas, which is the only source of free whole milk and baby formula in Dallas County where I grew up. We intend to continue this practice with our son this year as his first Hanukkah is fast approaching.

So if you don’t see Ari wearing the outfit you bought him or playing with the toys you gave him, please know that somewhere, some other baby is very grateful for your gift. Ari will send you a thank you on their behalf.

Meredith Lewis

Meredith Lewis gets to read children's books for a living as the Director of Content and Engagement for PJ Library. She is proud to have worked previously at 70 Faces Media on MyJewishLearning and Kveller. She lives in idyllic Western Massachusetts with her husband and two sons.

The opinions expressed here are the personal views of the author. Comments are moderated, so use your inside voices, keep your hands to yourself, and no, we're not interested in herbal supplements.

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