Sunday, October 29, 2006

Halloween and the Jews

The day of tricks, treats, and all things ghoulish known as Halloween is upon us on Tuesday of this week. While Halloween, as practiced by many Americans, has little spiritual or religious significance apart from the use of supernatural imagery, it’s religious and specifically non-Jewish origins cannot be denied, having grown out of the pagan Celtic Samhain, the Irish All Hallows Eve and the Catholic All-Saints Day.

With such a pedigree, I think a Jew’s participation in Halloween activities is questionable at best. The emphasis of Judaism is on life, not death, and we certainly have a number or days and occasions during the year where we remember those who are no longer with us physically. The folks over at the Orthodox Union seem to agree, and have posted some thoughts as part of a series called “Wicca, Torah, and Truth,” which looks at Wicca, witchcraft, and the modern Jew.

What do you think? Do you plan to party like a pumpkin, or is this just another Tuesday night? Post your thoughts, and let us hear what’s in that Yiddeshe kop of yours.


Blogger netmessiah said...

I have a hard time with Halloween. On one hand, its roots are pagan and goyisha. It deals with idolotry and demonology and many things not so semitically cool.

On the other, it is not really what it used to be. Kids dont go around and wonder who they will sacrifice up next. Its about dressing up, candy, and parties.

What is even more remarkable is how all of America, it seems, opens their doors to their neighbors, distributes candy and treats, and embraces one hell of a communal bonding holiday secular experience.

Just some thoughts, more to come.

Sun Oct 29, 11:50:00 PM 2006  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

It's up to each individual....

....but I think, ya'll need to chill. If not for the "historians" that pop up every time this year, no one would reflect on the day's origins. the way, Purim has a lot of pagan parallels. Esther sounds a lot like Ishtar, and back in the Persian empire, people used to put on pageants and dress up in the fashion that we do on Purim.

...Halloween is pure fun for most people who like a day of spooks every once in a while to connect to the dark side.

...There's always going to be some segment of the Jewish population that wants as little socialization/fraternizing with the non-Jewish population as possible. However, for most Jews, like me, that's impossible if not undesirable.

Mon Oct 30, 10:37:00 AM 2006  
Blogger Frum Mommy said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

Mon Oct 30, 11:47:00 AM 2006  
Blogger Frum Mommy said...

Halloween just seems like a selfish holiday. So what goes on, kids dress up, knock in strangers doors and if they don't get a "treat" then the people in the house get a "trick" in the form of your plants being smashed, egg on the door and toliet paper tee-pee. Really, that sounds like community unity. Let's unite everyone by forcing them to give out candy, "or else". That sounds pretty mean!

I live in a four-plex and it seems like I have gotten to know all my neighbors pretty well without having to knock on doors asking for candy.

So when asked at my daughters baby-school what she will be dressed up as I usually say, nothing. With all the Jewish holidays why would I need to add all the goyish ones to my life!

In any case, if asked, I wouldn't recommend that any person celebrate this Holiday. So, let's not be wishy-washy PC on this issue and say what we really mean Anonymous.

Mon Oct 30, 11:51:00 AM 2006  
Blogger Fedora Black said...


Thanks for your post. It would be great if you could pick a name to use on this blog, as it allows people to tell one anonymous poster from another, making some of the discussions here more clear, and protects your identity just as well as writing "anonymous".

It is true that one can choose to see paganism in anything if one tries hard enough. Many pagan rituals involved a ritualized meal, to which one might want to draw parallels to the Shabbos meal, the seder, and the various seudahs we celebrate. The "Great Rite" uses a cup and the Viking "bloet" used a cup with an alchoholic beverage, so one might be tempted to compare it to kiddush. We bless the moon, pray for rain, and even have a blessing for the sun, which we do every 28 years (next time in 2009), observances that would strike many as being more characteristic of the so-called nature and earth based traditions than Judaism.
However, one important difference between Judaism and traditions that are typically labled "pagan" is whether these tradition place the emphasis on Hashem's oneness and mastery, or whether they seek to appease various diverse forces, lacking a higher unity.

I don't agree that one can ever simply flirt with the "Dark Side" (what Judaism calls "klipa") even for fun, even for day, or even a moment. Ones one sinks down in the mud, it is very hard to pull oneself out again.

As for Purim, certainly it is more appropriate to compare Ishtar to Vashti...and if anything, she dressed "down" rather than up!

In your post you mention that:

"There's always going to be some segment of the Jewish population that wants as little socialization/fraternizing with the non-Jewish population as possible. However, for most Jews, like me, that's impossible if not undesirable"

Care to tell us more?

Mon Oct 30, 12:36:00 PM 2006  
Blogger G-D SQUAD said...

All I have to say is "" I wonder what they did for Halloween?

Wed Nov 01, 04:24:00 AM 2006  
Blogger Veridian said...

1) I used "anonymous" only because I forgot my name and password and didn't have the time to futz around. I'm not shy.

2) I don't see Halloween as a night of ill will towards neighbors. Almost everyone who partakes in the holiday does so because it is fun. Of course, there are tricks...more than 90% of the time, kids say that because it is just the they really mean it? NO! Come on - Gimme a break!.... Of course, there are unfortunate events that do occur on Halloween, and it's sad that those people take it to a stupid level.

3) People like being scared. People like scary things. It's fun to be scared - If it wasn't then why do people like watching thriller and horror movies? I'll note, though, that it is only fun when there is no real danger. I think people should celebrate the imagination, and the dark side of our imagination is real. How far we go with it is another matter? Take it easy, please!!

4) It's a fact that Orthodox Judaism wants to limit Jewish/Gentiile interaction as much as possible out of fear that Jews will adopt their ways and sensiblities. That's what this really comes down too. Could Halloween be celebrated in a Jewish way? No. Does Halloween have to be celebrated with religious contexts? No. Americans all over celebrate Christmas devoid of any religious symbolism; however, I don't celebrate it because the context is still entirely Christian/un-Jewish. The context of Halloween for me is nothing buy the celebration of scary stuff, too have some fun, and to live in a world of make-believe horror. It's an escapist holiday and no different in my mind than enjoying the frights of a House of Horror at some amusement park. Basically, if I felt Halloween compromised my Jewish identity, I wouldn't celebrate it. Those Jews that don't feel that it does.

****It's obvious to me that the people who first wrote the article on the Jewniproj and then wrote opposition opinions to my statement are orthodox/frum Jews, and the depths of the rift between "liberal" Jews, like me, and Orthodox Jews like them is something that would take up too much words and energy than I have to go into. You have your way, and I have mine

Wed Nov 01, 10:18:00 PM 2006  
Blogger G-D SQUAD said...

Hi. I'm a liberal observant Jew, and thank G-d I'm in Jerusalem right now where Halloween was a complete non-issue. I completely forgot about it until I saw it on here.

But I wanted to address veridian's allegation that "Purim has a lot of pagan parallels."

Um... well since the story actually took place and obviously it shook the whole region at that time, it's very very likely that numerous cultures would have internalized the story into their own cultural tradition in different ways. Yes, in fact there are other cultural narratives from that time that sound extremely similar to our story of Purim... and to automatically assume that Jews took Purim from a pagan culture (rather than hypothesizing that the event has been passed down through different cultural lenses) is kind of, well, unscientific, to say the least.

As far as Purim being compared to Halloween, any cursory reading into the meaning of dressing up on Purim and other Purim-related activities will reveal that the entire focus of Purim is to reveal the Oneness of G-d. As for Halloween and other pagan holidays, not so much.

Thu Nov 02, 04:18:00 AM 2006  

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