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Do Jews celebrate Halloween?

Thursday, 28 October, 2010 - 11:08 am

Growing up in South Africa, I had never witnessed the drama of a typical American October. Houses on the block have been transformed into a scene straight out of a gruesome horror movie with ghosts and goblins, spider webs and skeletons spilling out onto front yards, each intended to scare the life out of every passerby. With such intriguing displays which no doubt provide hours of entertainment to their creators, one wonders what it is about the leering pumpkins that dismally fails to entrance the Jews.

Halloween is rooted in primitive pagan rituals dedicated to the “Sun God” and the “Lord of the Dead”. The festival glorifies concepts relating to demonic forces, haunted hovels, witches, ghosts, goblins and general occult practices. One of Halloween’s main themes is ‘trick or treating’. Reserved for children dressed in costumes, they proceed from house to house, greeting each person with an ultimatum: “Trick or Treat?” If the individual fails to hand over the coveted treat, he must resort himself to a trick on either himself or his property.

This week’s Torah portion of Chayei Sara details the marriage of our forefather Isaac to Rebecca. The tale starkly contrasts the classic fairytale where after falling totally in love, the prince and princess marry and live happily ever after. Isaac took Rebecca home, and in the Torah’s words, “she became his wife and he loved her.”

True love can only be experienced within the context of marriage. Love develops when two physically, emotionally and psychologically different individuals devote themselves to one another, loving each other because of their differences and despite them. Today’s society has hopelessly confused love with lust, often building relationships and marriages on that powerful but fickle attraction. Love is all about giving, lust is about taking. Love results from living day in day out with a spouse and completely devoting oneself to them. The general rule is, the more you give, the more you fall in love.

The Jewish counterpart to Halloween is celebrated half a year earlier on Purim. The demons are challenged by holy sages, the nightmares are replaced with rejoicing, and most importantly, our fancy-dressed children do not demand candies from their neighbours, rather, they hand out treats to them in the form of mishloach manot. Purim teaches our children that as Jews, we give, we do not take.

Our kids are our future, so this year, you decide. Halloween or Purim: which of the two messages do you wish to impart to your precious child?

Comments on: Do Jews celebrate Halloween?
11/1/2012

Ilana Greenblatt wrote...

Thanks Rabbi, I hope more Jewish people come to celebrate our own customs and celebrations rather than adopt those that do not belong to us.
11/1/2012

Will wrote...

Love it!
10/31/2013

Peter Vinka wrote...

Hi Rabbi thank u for that excellent explanation Happy Shabbos
10/31/2013

Peter Vinka wrote...

Hi Rabbi thank u for that excellent explanation Happy Shabbos