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Do Jews Celebrate Halloween?

Do Jews Celebrate Halloween?

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Question:

Do Jews celebrate Halloween? I know its origins aren't very "Jewish," but I'm worried that my kids will feel left out if they can't go trick-or-treating in the neighborhood.

Answer:

Let me tell you about a wonderful Jewish holiday: once a year, our children dress up as sages, princesses, heroes and clowns. They drop by the homes of our community, visit the infirm and the aged, spreading joy and laughter. They bring gifts of food and drink and collect tzedakah (charity) for the needy.

You guessed it--it's called Purim, when it's customary to send mishloach manot--gifts of food--to one's friends and even more gifts to those in hard times.

Flip it over (October instead of March, demanding instead of giving, scaring instead of rejoicing, demons instead of sages, etc.) and you have Halloween. There you have it: a choice of one of two messages you can give to your children. I call that a choice, because one of the beautiful things about kids is that, unlike adults, they don't do too well receiving two conflicting messages at once.

I know how hard it is to be different, but as Jews, we have been doing just that for most of our 3,800 years. Since Abraham and Sarah broke away from the Sumerian cult of gods and demons, we have lived amongst other peoples while being very different from them. And we dramatically changed the world by being that way.

That's a proud and nurturing role for any child: To be a leader and not a follower, to be a model of what should be rather than of what is.

Make your kids feel that they are the vanguard. They belong to a people who have been entrusted with the mission to be a light to the nations--not an ominous light inside a pumpkin, but a light that stands out and above and shows everyone where to go. Forget about Halloween and wait for Purim to turn the neighborhood upside down!

Rabbi Tzvi Freeman, a senior editor at Chabad.org, also heads our Ask The Rabbi team. He is the author of Bringing Heaven Down to Earth. To subscribe to regular updates of Rabbi Freeman's writing, visit Freeman Files subscription.
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Discussion (276)
October 30, 2014
It's not a Christian celebration it's origins are decidedly pagan
Anonymous
October 30, 2014
I am a Christian Zionist and love Israel.
There is nothing Christian about Halloween. Research the history. My family has never celebrated this custom. Our church has a fall festival on Halloween night, so I am never at home. I do not feel as Christians or Jews, we should feel obligated to celebrate a holiday that is associated with evil.
Brenda Vickery
Conroe
October 30, 2014
I think this just alienates the ultra-religious Jewish people more by something like that. Halloween is just a fun holiday and is not wrapped up anymore in so many "demonizing" intricacies as the poster writes. What's wrong with being involved in some of what the greater population does? Why purposely try to go out of your way to isolate? It just causes more of a superiority complex and "holier than-thou" which can cause more conflict and turmoil between gentiles and Jews.
Anonymous
October 30, 2014
Halloween
Are we not commanded to be different ? Did Hashem not give us his holy-days to rejoice in ? It is so important we do not let the christian pantheon do what Hitler did not do . When David was comfortable he saw Bathsheba . He did what he knew in his heart was wrong. It did not go well for David . We as Jews have suffered enough a good long life comes from saying in line with Torah .
Sandra L Johnson
Highland ,Indiana
October 30, 2014
This does the same thing every other article does. It trys to convince people not to want it. You can't convince people not to want to do Halloween by explaining the beauty of something else. People need to be told the din. People need to be told that Halloween is avoda zarah and it is not permissible to celebrate it. The fact is, there are things about Halloween that many children love. The excitement of spooky things, the activity of parties and getting candy, all create a certain type of stimulation that is adventurous and exciting. and it has nothing to do with celebrating death, or zombies, or whatever. Kids don't think in those terms. They are children. They don't have das. So how are we supposed to convince a child that he shouldn't think these things are fun? There has got to be a better way to explain this to children so they can intrinsically shift there desire toward something else.
Anonymous
denver
October 30, 2014
Watered Down Evil
I'm always shocked at the extent to which watered down paganism seems to be accepted year after year. Halloween, or "All Hallows Eve" as it was originally called is nothing more than a reincarnation of the Celtic Festival of the Dead, called Samhain. In 835 CE, after Romans blended their pagan beliefs with a handful of misguided Jewish teachings, Pope Gregory IV changed Samhain to All Saint's Day. Nonetheless, it's teachings are rooted in the teachings of ancient Roman paganism. The holiday honors those who burn their children as an offering, those who practice divination and interprets omens,sorcerers, charmers, mediums, necromancers and those who inquire of the dead. I believe Deuteronomy 18 has something to say about these practices. Why would we honor them?
Jeremiah
Carroll, IA
October 30, 2014
Nonsense
Halloween is so divorced from religion that it is nonsense to make a case for not partying on the basis of some holier than thou attitude of being Jewish.
Avi
California
October 30, 2014
So well written!
shmuel
Ann Arbor, MI
October 30, 2014
Isn't this a bit silly
This should be the biggest problem you face in life with your child. Halloween is a silly little event that has no religious meaning...it's like Columbus Day, in that regard. Purim has religious significance and should certainly be emphasized for that as well as the fun part. Growing up I did both and, frankly, neither had much of an impact on me. But, for the sake of argument, why can't Jewish kids do something that is totally frivolous and meaningless, like dress up for Halloween? Why does everything we do have to have a deeper significance, a religious import? I find this aspect quite tedious and of little use.
M. S. Fenton, D.D.
NJ
July 31, 2014
Beautiful, Rabbi Freeman.

Teach both.
Embrace both.
Understand both.

Choose wisely.

Thank you.
David
The Deep Backwoods
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