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December Blues

by Rabbi Daniel Frietag

  

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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 radio.

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.

Reprinted with permission from www.torah.org.


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Sukkot
A seven day autumn festival commemorating the miracle of the Heavenly Clouds which enveloped the Jews while traveling in the desert for forty years. On this holiday we dwell in makeshift booths and shake the Four Species.
Yom Kippur
Day of Atonement. This late-autumn high-holiday is the holiest day of the year. We devote this day to repentance and all healthy adults are required to fast.
Esther
1. Jewish wife of Persian King Ahasuerus in the 4th century BCE. Foiled the plot of Haman, the prime minister, to exterminate all the Jews. The holiday of Purim commemorates this miraculous salvation. 2. One of the 24 Books of the Bible, which chronicles the abovementioned story.