Thursday, February 18, 2010

Intangible Benefits

By Susan Esther Barnes

Every year around this time I get ready to prepare my income taxes. Among the paperwork is a statement from the synagogue totaling what I gave this year in exchange for “intangible religious benefits.” Maybe, as far as the IRS is concerned, this is an accurate description of what I have received, yet it doesn’t sit right with me.

How intangible are the hugs I receive on Friday nights? How intangible was the wedding cake made sweeter by the knowledge it was made to celebrate the first two women ever married to each other in our sanctuary? How intangible were the tears running down my face on S’lichot when Dan Nichols sang, “May I suggest to you these are the best days of your life,” and I knew it was true?

Yet I know it is not the pressure of the arms, or the taste of the cake, or the touch of the warm salt water on my face that matters. It is the intangible feelings behind them: the love, the joy, the belonging, the caring. So I take my statement from the synagogue and I fill in the proper space on the tax form, and I thank the IRS for the annual reminder about the intangible benefits, both tangible and not.

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