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208http://www.beth-israel.org/blog/2014/10/RabbiLyonsBlog-10_31_2014
Rabbi Lyon's Blog - 10_31_2014
10/31/2014 11:43 AM Posted by:

From the Desk of Rabbi David Lyon
October 31, 2014

 

Why is this night different from all other nights? On all other nights, kids who are dressed in costumes and ring doorbells set off alarms and summon the police; but, on this night kids who dress in costumes and ring doorbells expect nothing but candy. Halloween is a strange holiday. It has nothing to do with Judaism. Absolutely nothing. Even so, American Jewish kids grow up anticipating Halloween like it’s their birthright.

                By definition, Halloween is a contraction of "All HallowsEvening” or All Hallows' Eve. It occurs on the eve of the Western Christian feast of All Hallows' Day. It initiates the time in the liturgical year dedicated to remembering the dead, including saints (hallows), martyrs, and all the faithful departed believers. The traditional focus of All Hallows' Eve revolves around the theme of using "humor and ridicule to confront the power of death" (Wikipedia).

                By contrast, Judaism doesn’t confront the power of death. Judaism avoids the power of death. Every superstition our ancestors brought with them to America from the old-country was an antidote against death. A bible placed under the mattress warded off evil and contributed to good health. A red string tied onto a baby’s crib warded off evil again and kept the baby safe from harm. A “poo-poo-poo” and a “kayn ahora” were words of reproof against the evil eye. Knocking on wood to protect from evil is a non-Jewish practice, even though many Jews do it. Many connect this action to Christian beliefs that relate wood to slivers of the cross, which were believed to bring good luck. However, this practice has a more universal, pantheistic origin. Long before the time of Jesus, some cultures regarded trees as gods; believers were convinced that touching (or knocking on) wood could produce magical results (MyJewishLearning.com).

                Speaking of idolatrous acts, this week’s Torah portion (Lech-Lecha, Genesis 12) is all about rejecting pagan worship and destroying idols of worship. In a Midrash, the rabbis explain that Abraham thought his father Terach’s idols absurd and incapable of being the creator of anything. Only the One God could be the creator of human beings and everything that lived upon the earth. Abraham smashed his father’s idols and placed the large stick he used to smash them in the hands of the biggest idol, accusing it of destroying the others. Terach accused his son, but Abraham blamed the idol holding the stick. Then even Terach was unable to believe that an idol made of clay could have destroyed the others, let alone be an object of worship. God said to Abraham, “Go forth from your father’s house…”

                Ever since, Judaism has boldly rejected idols of any sort and considered them contrary to Judaism as a whole. Both the Ten Commandments and the Noahide Laws include prohibitions against idolatry. In some Jewish neighborhoods, participating in any non-Jewish holiday or observance is prohibited. A holiday like Halloween violates so many Jewish tenets. But, in America, there is virtually nothing left of Halloween’s original meaning. Most of us grew up running from door to door (not dor l’dor) looking for candy on Halloween. I don’t know any kid, today, who doesn’t look forward to Halloween night as if it were the greatest thing since, well, last Halloween.

                So, don’t let me dampen your October holiday spirit. When the doorbell rings on Halloween, fill the kids’ bags with candy and wish them a Happy Halloween. And, when your kids come home with bags full of treats, sort them out and insist on taking your cut. I usually go for the Kit-Kat bars.



You may contact Rabbi David Lyon here.


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