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Monday, October 30, 2006

Moment Magazine features in its Ask The Rabbis section an article on 'Jewish' involvement in trick-or-treating . . .
It Includes:
Sephardic, Modern Orthodox

Through its prohibition of “foreign” customs, the Torah draws attention to its own uniqueness . . . In order to emphasize these crucial distinctions, the Torah prohibits us from adopting customs that have roots in idolatrous religions. Rather than sending Jewish children out to trick-or-treat, we should use Halloween as an opportunity to teach them about the features of their heritage that make it truly unique.
Modern Orthodox
This is not so much a halachic question; it is a public policy question. Do we want to prohibit or permit this activity? . . . My wife and I discouraged our children from trick-or-treating—partly out of fear of religious syncretism, but mostly because we did not want them to internalize American consumerist psychology and because eating a lot of candy is unhealthy. But I confess, trick-or-treating is popular in our neighborhood. In order to be good neighbors, we leave boxes of fruits, treats and candy goodies in front of the house with a sign inviting kids to help themselves to one item out of each box. We don’t check if any of the kids are Jewish. Conclusion: If a Jewish child wants to go trick-or-treating for social reasons, it’s not a big deal.

There is a halachic prohibition against a belief in sorcerers and magic. Some of this begins with the biblical tale of Saul, who consulted a fortune teller instead of God about his future. His misjudgment resulted in Saul losing both his throne and his mind.

As long as parents discuss with their children the difference between believing in sorcery and reality, I see no significant objection here. Most of my objections are related to the conflicts that can arise between celebrating Halloween and doing the right thing, Jewishly. For example, for the family that keeps kashrut, there is surely the issue of whether some of the candy and food that their kids will “bag” will meet the Jewish edible standards. But this could be addressed by carefully “sifting” through the candy, and donating all unacceptable items to a food bank for other children who can partake without religious restrictions. . .Can Jewish kids live without these ghosts, goblins and candy? I certainly think so. Will it do irreparable damage to their Jewish identities if they participate? Probably not. But as parents, we should think about the values, priorities and commitments we want our children to develop.
To be completely true to our tradition, the answer is, “No. Jewish children should not go trick-or-treating on Halloween.” Inasmuch as this is a Christian/ pagan holiday—no matter how secularized it has become—it is inappropriate for Jews to observe it in any manner. . . . However, the matter is more complicated. Are there moments when Jews have taken an essentially foreign idea and co-opted it and changed into an authentic Jewish tradition? Of course! And the most obvious example is the Passover seder. So many of our traditions were lifted directly from Roman influences. . . [T]he holiday has evolved into a secular celebration.
herefore, it would seem to be as innocent an activity as celebrating New Year’s Eve or Thanksgiving (both of which once had Christian connotations).
We could boycott All Hallow’s Eve for its ghoulish associations—and, in medieval Christendom, Jews received more trick than treat. We might avoid this holiday of “pagan” origin, lest we “do as the other nations.” Ghosts of Halloweens past may still haunt us. Or Halloween could be just a harmless diversion. We might accompany our Power Rangers and Doras around the neighborhood to say that “America is different,” that we feel safe(r) on these shores. Since it usually falls in Mar-Cheshvan, the only holiday-less Hebrew month, we might even make it our own. . .
It’s a tightrope act: Avoiding Halloween may feel like the Jewish thing to do, yet a simmering feeling of “I missed the funnest thing ever” can subtly undermine future Jewish identity. So rather than decree or surrender, we should decide with our kids and engage them in discussion of the values at hand.

In the American melting pot of shared cultures, trick-or-treating is as religious as a bagel. Dressing in costume for occasions other than Purim is Jewishly acceptable. It makes sense that Jewish schools don’t celebrate Halloween, but it’s normal for Jewish students to want to take part in it.
Halloween is a time to teach piku’ah nefesh—protecting or saving a life. A few examples: When trick-or-treating children should be accompanied by an adult. . . Products that are unsealed shouldn’t be eaten. Large amounts of candy can be dangerous to our health.
. . . Invite your child’s Jewish and non-Jewish friends and serve delicious, kid-friendly food. More harm is done to Jewish continuity by forbidding youth from observing holidays like Halloween than by supporting the celebration in safe and healthy ways.

Still, it is far better for a Jewish child to go trick-or-treating than to celebrate an iota of Christmas and Easter.

Why? Because Halloween is probably a whole lot closer to Jewish tradition than Christmas or Easter. After all, Jewish tradition also held annual rituals of warding off evil spirits, or winds, with the approach of major seasonal changes. As the Midrash teaches, “What is the ritual of the barley offering? One waves the barley shoots in its season, first inward and outward to ward off harsh winds that are harmful to the crops, then upward and downward to ward off harsh rains that are harmful to the crops. Others say, first inward and outward to the One to whom belongs all of the universe, then upward and downward to the One to whom belongs both the Upper Realms and Lower Realms.” Even the shofar that we blow so glibly these days on Rosh Hashanah was to our ancestors an implement to ward off evil forces. So if you must take your kids trick-or-treating, employ it as an opportunity to introduce them to the richness of their own tradition.

For secular Jews and the Humanistic Jews among them the question isn’t, “to trick or not to trick” but what kind of treats to hand out and how to regulate all that sugar intake. We’re also concerned about which costumes are acceptable and which are not, generally preferring a benign Bob the Builder over a blood-curdling goblin. . . Halloween’s attraction, I think, is to be found in its pagan origins. Despite all our vaunted modern and rational ideas, we have permission, even if briefly, to think about dead spirits, demonic forces and the uncertainty of winter closing in on us. Thankfully, those very goblins subverted the Church’s efforts to turn it into a holiday for saints, and it remains accessible for all of us to enjoy.

The opinions almost seem to play out like a joke -"At an Orthodox wedding, the Mother in law is pregnant. At Conservative wedding, the Bride is pregnant. At a Reform wedding the Rabbi is pregnant . . ."
The only person who expressed any true akshonus, who stands true to what Jew believes in full force, is the Sephardic rabbi . . . Everyone becomes wishy-washy -making Judaism into religion of dentists and antiquated pagans (r"l) . . .
It seems funny that due to the secularization of the day, it is considered permissible by most . . . Should now X-mas be permitted? Why not? It is nothing more then a marketing move, part of the Holiday season that includes 15 cent coupons for eggnog, and a special parades in Disney Land . . .
Why can't we stand strong? Show that Jews don't bend to every wind of the times, that we take pride in our own unique history . . . that are greatest concerns are not giving out unhealthy snacks!

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naomi said...

what happened to the orthodox or chasidish opinion?s

Mottel said...

From the type of Magazine that this is, I'm surprised that there was even a mention of (Modern) Orthodox