I dislike Halloween, and Jews ‘doing’ Halloween most especially.
I know some find it cute, others find it harmless and some really quite enjoy it, but I find it entirely objectionable.
I apologise to those who find my Grinch-like attitude odd; humour me a little. I’m going to share just one element of my harrumph.
Twice in Leviticus the Torah counsels the Jew not to follow ‘Chukkot Ha-Goi’ – it’s a difficult phrase to understand in its original usage, let alone in translation. A Jewish ‘Chok’ is a part of our practice that can’t be explained as ethically a good thing to do; keeping Kosher, fixing a Mezuzah, lighting Shabbat candles... ‘Chok’ suggests a strangeness and something characteristic – the sort of thing which marks the Jew out not only as a decent human being, but also as having a particularity which is, not to the exclusion of other elements, religious.
‘Chukkot Ha-Goi’ would, therefore, be the oddities of the nations among whom we live which connect, at least in part, to a foreign religious sensibility. Rashi cites two ways to understand the phrase; firstly social practices that have assumed coercive power and secondly superstitious practices (Darkei HaEmori). The thing to watch out for is the sort of thing that, if not followed, might be perceived as ‘bad sport,’ or a failing to keep up with the next-door neighbours, but which nonetheless conveys an acceptance of a view of the world that is un-Jewish.
So if you like dressing up, dress up for Purim, if you want to give gifts to kids, try a charity whose benefactors truly need our support. At the very least care twice as much, spend twice as much time and effort – and even money - on imbibing for yourself and imbuing in your family a love our own Chukkim – those things that mark out our Jewish particularity, faith and identity. Certainly I believe it's worth girding our resistance to Chukkot Ha-Goi as the winter months continue their roll in towards the end of the secular year.
One last thought - I pinned the following message to our front door this evening, with a pen;
Dear Trick or Treaters,
We are a Jewish home and a trick or treat free zone.
But if you would like, please make a note of any charities that you support below and we’ll be making a donation in the morning,
Sadly, no takers, despite all the excitement up & down our street. I'll be making my donation to Jewish Childs Day - www.jcd.uk.com