Friday, October 24, 2008



The observance of Halloween is not Jewish and many arguments pro and con about dressing up and going door to door for candy have been made over the years. But there is no argument over the importance of Shabbat in our tradition. This year, Halloween comes out on Shabbat. The confluence of October 31 with Friday night presents families (and synagogues) with a unique opportunity to make a positive statement to their kids about Shabbat, while not necessarily placing people into a position of conflict with the fun of Halloween.

So next Friday night at services we're going to celebrate Shabbat with a unique twist. We'll call it "Challah-Ween," a title that won out over "Hallowed Queen" when I did a sponteneous survey at Simhat Torah services. Whatever you choose to call it, please come! Adults and children of all ages are welcome to join us at our regular time of 6:30 PM, and if you happen to have a costume on because you are coming from trick-or-treating, we still want you to come by and spend Kabbalat Shabbat with us. Cantor Littman and I are planning a fun service, and we'll have plenty of candy here…I may even bring out my favorite Jewish ghost story, “The Rabbi Who Was Turned into a Werewolf.”

Another way that has been suggested to embrace Shabbat while allowing your child to have the "fun" of Halloween is to keep the NOAH theme (next week’s portion) when choosing a costume. So, did Scooby Doo have a place on Noah’s Ark?

One year, when my kids were young and we had the same Shabbat issue, we contacted a few friends and set up a Thursday evening trick-or-treat alternative. We stationed adults in each room of the house, and the kids went from door to door inside, and when they knocked, a smiling adult gave them candy (kosher, of course). That way they could have their challah and eat it too.

As you might be able to tell, I come from the “lighten up” school of thought when it comes to Halloween, although I do feel a far greater concern because of this year’s confluence with Shabbat. But the question as to whether or not Halloween is “un-Jewish,” is far too complex to relegate to a few comments here. This is a fascinating time to tackle the fascinating subject of “Jew-sion,” the fusion of Judaism and surrounding cultures. It’s a perfect opportunity to discuss this, because there is a clear connection between the Creation account (this week's portion), the story of Noah and various ancient near eastern myths.

What is also clear that the Creation and Noah stories have many universal themes. It shows clearly how the destiny of all humankind is intertwined.

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