Tuesday, 29 January 2013

JVO: Christmas Things

Jewish Values Online (jewishvaluesonline.org) is a website that asks the Jewish view on a variety of issues, some specifically Jewish and some from the world around us -- and then presents answers from each of the dominations of Judaism. Nishmablog's Blogmaster Rabbi Wolpoe and Nishma's Founding Director, Rabbi Hecht, both serve as Orthodox members of their Panel of Scholars.

This post continues our series on the Nishmablog that features responses on JVO by one of our two Nishma Scholars who are on this panel. This week's presentation is to one of the questions to which Rabbi Wolpoe responded.

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Question: What should I do if my child is in school and the teachers are making him do a bunch of Christmas things like decorating the tree and making ornaments? Do I let him participate? We are a Jewish family and I am concerned. I don't want him to be forced to do Christian religious things, but I also don't want him to feel isolated and left out.

Theologically this presents several issues, including:
1. What is the status of Christianity in Jewish Law?
2.  In today's world what is the status of Christmas? Is it a religious holiday or a secular holiday?
A quick review of Tractate "Avodah Zarah" aka Akum etc. reveals that a primary concern is to bend over backwards so as to NOT observe Pagan Holidays.  A lot of ink is spilled on this which leads me to the next topic, because I plan to skirt the first 2. --smile--
3. What about assimilation?  Have more Jews been lost here in North America to assimilation than in Europe did to persecution?
Clearly, Hanukkah was THE paradigm protesting the enforced assimilation of Jews towards the popular culture or its time, namely Hellenism. It would be ironic if Hanukkah were to be "undone" by enforced assimilation here in the USA!
I'm not sure of the First Amendment issues but free practice would mean that those who choose to Observe Christmas have every right to do so, and those who refuse to Observe Christmas equally have that right, too.
Bottom Line as I see it any concession on this matter is a concession in favor of assimilation and at the expense of minority rights.
Try to get excused from this and instead offer to do volunteer work on Christmas, EG at Hospitals.

Exodus 23:24,25
Exodus 34:12-17
Leviticus 18:1-5
Deutoronomy 7:1-8
Tractate Avodah Zarah

Shalom and Regards,

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