Rabbi Daniel Frietag
I was in my car last December listening to the radio. Being late December
and all, most of the non-Jews who usually occupy the airwaves were off
shopping and whatnot, while the Jews took to the microphone. Of course the
traffic was being reported by Mo Schwartz, (oy vey! Look at the Bay
bridge!), and the news and talk shows were hosted by Abe and Esther.
Anyway, I was listening to a show in which a Jewish man and woman were
shmoozing about whatever struck their fancy. This particular day they were
speaking of X-mas. The conversation went approximately like this.
Man: You know, why can't we Jews have a holiday like X-mas? We have one
holiday a year,Yom Kippur, and we mess it up with fasting etc..Why don't we
have a holiday where people stay at home with their families, no shopping or
working, just good quality family time...
Woman: Well, we have Sukkot.
Man: Yeah, but who does Sukkot anymore?
And so on. You know it's kind of ironic, Judaism is the one religion which
has a holiday once every seven days and these folks think that Yom Kippur is
the only Jewish holiday! But there was more here that really struck me.
What did he mean "nobody does Sukkos anymore"? Even if you believe that you
don't have to observe Sukkos, who says you aren't allowed to? Respectfully
sir, if you are so upset about not having any holidays like x-mas, celebrate
a few of ours! Our holidays are designed to be exactly what he was
describing except without the shopping and jingle headaches! Let me be
blunt -- Jewish holidays are great! We pray a bit, hang out with friends and
family, eat meals, relax, etc.. Whoever told this fellow that Yom Kippur was
the only Jewish holiday?
I think some Jews have a kind of X-mas envy. You know what I mean. All
December long we hear X-mas jingles in the car, the mall, the street, on TV.
The TV stations are all playing "X-mas specials", you know, the Peanuts
X-mas special, the Garfield X-mas special, the "Real Police Chases" X-mas
special. Oh yeah, and a token "Hannukah" special on PBS. We see the
shopping, the festivities, and we feel like outsiders. Why couldn't we have
a fat bearded fellow in red pajamas jump down OUR chimney and leave us
plastic breakable playthings? We totally lose sight of the fact that we
have holidays and festivities of our own, but we want to be a part of the
festivities which in almost all Jewish centuries signaled the beginning of
intense pogroms and oppression of Jewry. But the main thing which struck me
wasn't the fact that the folks on the radio wanted to celebrate X-mas. I
understand the pressure one feels living in a country full of Christians.
It was the fact that he so ignorantly insulted his own religion on city-wide
My feeling isn't that we should begrudge Christians the right to celebrate
X-mas. It is their right and privilege. But let us really learn about our
own religion before relegating it to second-class status. More often than
not it is the lack of appreciation of what we have, rather than the reality
of what the other has, which leaves us wanting.
Do you have an opinion on this matter? We'd love to hear from you. Send your comments to Rabbi Freitag and Torah.org.