Jewish Halloween?

A reader sent me in this question:

Question: We just bought a sukkah for the first time in our lives and enjoyed the holiday. We go to temple every Saturday for services. Yet we still decorate for Halloween and go trick or treating {We are not kosher} My orthodox friends say this is hypocritical and I am giving my children a mixed message. I have always looked upon Halloween as being a fun holiday. What is the Jewish viewpoint on Halloween? I need to know the answer. Thank you.

Answer:

Mazel tov on your new acquisition! May you enjoy many happy years in that Sukkah! Sukkos has the unique element of bestowing holiness upon the Jews by virtue of a Mitzvah that surrounds us. Most Mitzvos are things we do, and when we do them, we personally manipulate holiness. The Sukkah surrounds us, and envelops us in its special spiritual warmth, and we thus manipulate holiness by doing things in the Sukkah, instead of to or with the Sukkah.

Halloween, however, has no such warmth or spirituality for a Jew. Quite the contrary, it can actually take away spirituality and holiness from a Jew. Part of this is because it is forbidden for us to adopt non-Jewish holidays. But that's not the only reason. Halloween has many elements in it that are simply wrong and contrary to Jewish values.

Before I discuss those, however, let me first suggest an alternative.

Purim is a holiday with a lot more fun in it than Halloween. Not only that, but on Purim we wear disguises and give gifts of food to friends and gifts of money and/or food to poor people.

In keeping Purim, you would be teaching your children a number of important lessons, such as the greater goodness of giving rather than demanding, and also the main lesson of Purim, which is that G-d helps people "anonymously," that is, while G-d remains behind the scenes. (See my articles at our Purim Gateway for an explanation of this concept.)

On Halloween people take -- in fact demand -- sweets from strangers. This alone is certainly not a good thing to be teaching children, not to mention that Judaism forbids such a practice. It is also considered terrible behavior.

Besides, there are also the pagan and christian concepts involved in Halloween.

Halloween is said to have originated as a Druids' holiday at the harvest season. They would light large bonfires to ward away evil spirits.

The Celts believed that Halloween was a good day to examine the future by means of magical practices. Magical practices are forbidden by the Torah whether or not they work. (Magic tricks done by sleight of hand are permitted, unless used to dupe or manipulate someone.)

So Halloween was a pagan holiday celebrated in Great Britain quite a long time ago, probably a thousand years before christianity existed.

When the Romans conquered Britain, they added some things to Halloween. Since it was also a harvest festival, they added the worship of Pomona, the "goddess of fruits and trees." Idolatry, as you know, is one of the three worst sins.

According to Wikipedia (admittedly often an unreliable source):

Halloween or Hallowe'en (... a contraction of "All Hallows' Evening"), also known as All Hallows' Eve, is a yearly celebration observed in a number of countries on October 31, the eve of the Western Christian feast of All Hallows' Day. It initiates the triduum of Hallowmas, the time in the liturgical year dedicated to remembering the dead, including saints (hallows), martyrs, and all the faithful departed believers.

According to many scholars, All Hallows' Eve is a Christianized feast initially influenced by Celtic harvest festivals, with possible pagan roots, particularly the Gaelic Samhain. Other academics maintain that it originated independently of Samhain and has solely Christian roots.

According to the Catholic Online Encyclopedia, the day following Halloween is known as All Saints' Day, followed by All Souls' Day, and those are indeed Christian holidays.

So, as you see, there is nothing about Halloween that has anything to do with any Jewish sentiments. Just about every aspect of it is forbidden by Jewish Law!

Again, consider keeping Purim instead. Jews have no need to celebrate Gentile holidays. Ours have so much more meaning and joy to us.

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There has been a rather amusing response to the above article. One or two white supremacist websites have expressed outrage that we recommend Purim over Halloween. A holiday that, they say, supposedly “celebrates the murder of seventy-five thousand Gentiles” is a horrible holiday to keep.

To this I offer the following points:

Purim does not celebrate the deaths, but the victory. (Though we do celebrate the eleven chief architects of the plot against us -- Haman and his ten sons.) What do we (that is, Americans) celebrate on Independence Day? The death of 24,000 British and 7,554 German soldiers? Or our victory, and our subsequent freedom from British rule? White supremecists are especially insistent about celebrating war holidays. They would be greatly offended at any American who did not celebrate Memorial Day and Veteran's Day, honoring the soliders, those dead and those alive, who served this country and gave their utmost. And they grow enraged when people point out that the enemy countries of each war also had massive casualties.

Everyone celebrate their victories, Jews included. America celebrates with parades and fireworks, Jews celebrate with charity and gifts and merriment and feasts.

And remember, Purim celebrates a war that, like many wars America and other nations have fought, was entirely self-defense. Everyone has a right to defend themselves, except apparently, minorities that white supremacists hate.

As I explain in my article on the subject, it was entirely a war of self-defense. The war took place only because there were people — maybe not all the people, but many thousands — who wanted to exterminate the Jews. The Jews were at first forbidden to defend themselves, and then by a miraculous turnover of events, were given permission to defend themselves. We were not wiped out, and that is what we celebrate — that Hashem saved us from extermination.

Jews do not celebrate the death of Gentiles, but rather our own salvation and the death of our would-be murderers. Every decent person celebrated the death of Hitler. (Mind you, white supremecists think Hitler was a good person. (In fact, many of them believe that Hitler never targeted the Jews, and that it's a shame he didn't finish the job.)

But the amusing part is yet to come:

Who did the Jews kill in the Purim event? The Bible says that the empire of Ahasueraus, where these events took place, encompassed “from India to Ethiopia” (Esther 1:1). White supremacists hate a lot of people, but chief among them are (Jews, of course, and) African and Asian people. If the supremacists could, they would massacre all of them (and us)! So these White Supremacists are complaining that the Jews they hate, killed other people they hate! And we are supposed to take them seriously? Racism of any kind, you see, isn’t and has never been rational.

So I reiterate: if you are Jewish, Purim is a better Holiday to celebrate than Halloween.

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