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January 18, 2017 / 20 Tevet, 5777
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It’s Halloween, Let’s All Idol-Worship Tonight!

If you allow your kids to participate in the pagan rites of a gentile culture, they are likely to grow up with pumpkin heads instead of Jewish heads.

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Tonight, Jewish youth all over the world – except in Israel– will celebrate the pagan holiday of Halloween.

Halloween is also called All Hallows’ Eve, because, for the gentiles, it is a hallowed evening, the eve of All Saints’ Day, a day which honors all Christian saints.

The Encyclopedia Britannica explains that in ancient Britain and Ireland, the Festival of Halloween was also celebration of the end of the fertile period of the Celtic goddess, Eiseria. It is said that when Eiseria reaches the end of her fertile cycle, the worlds of the dead and the living intertwine. This supposedly happens on October 31. Masks are worn to show respect for the Goddess Eiseria, who, like most Celtic gods, does not wish to be seen by human eyes. This is one of the reason behind Halloween costumes and for the holiday’s omens, spirits, demons, and witches.

This date was also New Year’s Eve in both Celtic and Anglo-Saxon times, and was the occasion for one of the ancient fire festivals when huge bonfires were set on hilltops to frighten away evil spirits. The souls of the dead were supposed to revisit their homes on this day, and the festival acquired sinister significance, with ghosts, witches, hobgoblins, black cats, fairies, and demons said to be roaming about.

It was the time to placate the supernatural powers controlling the processes of nature. In addition, Halloween was thought to be the most favorable time for divination concerning marriage, luck, health, and death. It was the only day on which the help of the devil was invoked for such purposes. These pagan observances also influenced the Christian festival of All Hallows’ Eve, celebrated on the same date.

Jewish Law states:

A Jew should not follow the customs of the gentiles, nor imitate them in dress, or in their way of trimming their hair, as it says, ‘You shall not walk in the customs of the nation which I cast out before you’ (Lev. 20:23), and ‘Neither shall you walk in their statutes’ (Lev. 18:3). These verses all refer to one and the same matter of not imitating them. A Jew, on the contrary, should be distinguished from them and recognizable by the way he dresses, and in his other activities, just as he is distinguished from them in his knowledge and his beliefs, as it is said, ‘I have set you apart from the peoples’ (Lev. 20:26). (See, Rambam, Laws Regarding Idol Worship and the Ordinances of the Gentiles, 11:1).

When it comes to the question whether Jews can take part in gentile holidays, the halachic discussion differs between clearly religious holidays like Xmas, which are forbidden, and purely secular holidays like Labor Day, which are permissible. Halloween’s religious origins and pagan history place it in the category of gentile holidays that are forbidden to celebrate.

Though Halloween in America has been secularized and commercialized to the point where it is now a frivolous time of costumes, candy, and pranks, it is still celebrated in places like Scotland and Ireland as a Celtic festival of the spirits, and in other places as a holiday honoring the Christian saints. Therefore, there is good reason for telling the kids that “Trick or Treating” is a no-no for Jewish children.

The law prohibiting our participation in gentile holidays and customs comes to protect our special Jewish holiness and cultural distinction. If you allow your kids to participate in the pagan rites of a gentile culture, they are likely to grow up with pumpkin heads instead of Jewish heads.

On the other hand, if you try to safeguard our distinction as Jews and not let your children go “Trick or Treating” with all the other kids in the neighborhood, there’s a good chance that they will grow up hating both you and Judaism for turning them into freaks in the eyes of their friends. Either way, as a Jewish parent, you lose.

What’s the solution? Move to Israel. The only place you will see a pumpkin here is in the supermarket (a small yellow one that looks more like a squash). If you truly love your children and don’t want them growing up with pumpkin heads, then the only solution is to bring them to Israel where they will grow up with Jewish holidays like we’re supposed to.

Tzvi Fishman

About the Author: Tzvi Fishman was awarded the Israel Ministry of Education Prize for Creativity and Jewish Culture for his novel "Tevye in the Promised Land." A wide selection of his books are available at Amazon. His recent movie "Stories of Rebbe Nachman" The DVD of the movie is available online.

The author's opinion does not necessarily reflect the opinion of The Jewish Press.

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Imported and Older Comments:

  1. When we can't move to Israel, we must be firm and educated in the GOD's Laws. The GOD's Word, inserted on our minds have Power to do changes and close the heart's doors to these abominations.

  2. David Miller says:

    Sucks to be the writers kid….what a bunch of idiots in this world. Valentines Day evil LMAO.

  3. Liad Bar-el says:

    Today's Shmuleyisms on Halloween:

    Rabbi Shmuley says: "America needs more, not less, traditions and holidays that revolve around kids. Halloween is a fun, harmless and neutral means by which you and your children can meet new neighbors and discover the kindness of strangers. So to all of you who object to Halloween on the grounds that's its demonic or gory, I say, 'Come knock on my door, have something sweet and lighten up.'".

    Now you see why Jews don't come to Israel.

  4. Grace Acosta says:

    Thank you for this! I was beginning to think that I was just crazy and controlling. My daughter is obsessed with Halloween, and it's making me nuts. The MO community is no help here, as all of the Jewish kids she knows will be going out tonight. If you could find my husband a job in Israel, we'd move tomorrow! (We've searched for years, but nobody's hiring shochtim right now.)

  5. Anonymous says:

    you are sick! people don't care what is halloween about… just trying to have some fun. Get out the cave! Jewish Law looks like a dictatorship no more different than the ancient rulers. People are free to live their life as the Jewish law won't give them another one.

  6. Elen Shtern says:

    Hello Keila, I think Halloween is abomination. And children.. They take a part in this day.. Why ? Why so long I can"t find any right reaction from moms and dads who are Christians..

  7. Wendy Bassett says:

    It is definitely easier to not start something than to stop doing something. It IS hard not giving into the pressures.
    As a Christian I hate hallowe'en, too. '(although I love autumn, coloured leaves, pumpkins and scarecrows) I do not worship any saints. Similar debates take place amongst Christians, as well re ''celebrating Hallowe'en". years ago when the children were young I remember that our church had a Hallelujah day with games, treats, etc.

    Very interestingly I was more than surprised to see photos taken at a young adult Purim (yes Jewish) party where almost everyone in the photos had chosen to dress as ghouls, zombies, blood & guts costumes. I never expected that at all.

    There is that line between encouraging and instructing and possibly judging someone re his/her level of ''holiness'' based on behaviour.
    The verses in Leviticus give me pause. Re not imitating gentiles in dress and trimming ones hair etcetera, I expect that is not something most Jewish people seek to follow?

  8. If I were jewish, I'd move to Israel.

  9. I always thought the costumes were to trick the evil spirits, not honor them.

    I love the solution. If I could I would.

  10. Hi, dear Elen! I believe firmly that our families are growing with a poor diet of the rich God's meals!!! Almost none families read the Scriptures with their children, teach them about our Fathers, our Powerful GOD and His commandments, about the difference between 'the precious' and 'the vile'…(Jeremy 15:19) Without God's knowledge we are been destroyed (Oshea 4:6) and our sons are receiving harmul influences as this was a simple happening!!! I beg: God, have mercy of our families!!! Guide us back to Your Holy Word!!! That is our only chance to reverse this sadness!

  11. Elen Shtern , I live in Brasilia, Brazil.

  12. Jerry Tyson says:

    The only thing that you are suppose to be , is yourself.

  13. Jerry Tyson says:

    Thumbs up to Rabbi Schmuley

  14. Salcedo Tina says:

    You know. our God is a righteous God and full of love! He knows the INTENTIONS of our hearts and our motives… SOME people may idol worship and involve themselves in the history of halloween, but most people in AMERICA just walk around to have fun with their kids! The old testament IS the OLD testament… the laws NEVER could save anyone or make them holy… that's WHY Jesus died for us… so there is therefore, now , no more separate or division between them in Christ Jesus.

  15. I don't celebrate Halloween. I am a Christian and a half-Jew. I am also a teacher and host the non-Celebrators in my classroom. While I do not judge people who do, especially the kids who for them, it is all about the candy and fun, I cannot accept the pagan roots personally, and that it is a high holiday for them. I just don't want to be a part of that. I think Purim is a very acceptable alternative to those who want to have fun and dress up, but not be associated with with witchcraft and paganism.

  16. Liad Bar-el says:

    What do we have here, a Rabbi who teaches others obedience to the Goddess Eiseria and to honor ghosts, witches, hobgoblins, black cats, fairies, and demons all under the title of social psychology?

  17. It is clear from scripture that pagan worship forms and structure are an abomination to God. As a Christian I want my life to reflect the love of my Creator. The church does not have a mandate to follow pagan rites and rituals and to tell God that Yeshua's blood sacrifice make that okay. This is false teaching and the entire concept of the 'Old' testament being 'old', as in redundant, is illogical and based on twisting what Yeshua's sacrifice established. The church needs to wake up and get understanding about the sacrifices and forms of worship laid out in the Tanakh and what God is trying to teach us through them because it has confused the issue of salvation with the need to live a life that reflects the acceptance of Gods teaching for our life. Yeshua paid the price of redemption for sin as the Lamb of God but He also constantly referred those He taught to, if anything, a more intense revelation of the Torah. The Lord said to Abraham 'I will provide a sacrifice'. Yeshuas' blood should not be treated as though it is a mandate to declare to God that He should follow a set of standards that we think are acceptable. The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom. Trust in the Lord and lean not on your own understanding, in ALL your ways acknowledge Him and He will make straight your paths, Trust in the Lord and turn from evil.' Yeshua taught from the scriptures, He did not produce some new form of Bible. The Jewish people, by their diligence through the millenia have preserved the word of God. This is no accident. It is not by the power of human will or strength thisa has been done. Not one word of the Lords' will return to Him without it achieving it's purpose. This is the word that is the same yesterday, today and forever. Love the Lord your God with ALL your heart. If we truly love Him we will not do the things He hates.

  18. Susannah West says:

    I think Purim beats Halloween all hollow!

  19. "They are likely to grow up with pumpkin heads"? And the solution is to move to Israel? -.-

  20. Myriam Obadia says:

    The people who actually worship on that day do not call it Halloween, they call it Samain and they worship a mother goddess, not a slew of idols. As far as I know, this isn't a cult which happens to have worshipers in Israel, but if we accept Muslims, Christians, and Buddhists within Israel, what are we to say to the others? Sure, I'm a Jew and it would never come to my mind to worship anyone but the G-d of our Torah, but I don't think he gave me the duty or the right to judge whom goyim worship in their own temples so long as they don't demand that I follow or adopt their rites and beliefs.

  21. Susannah West says:

    Well, this Felafel on Rye guy thinks that any Jew who doesn't live in Israel is just eating the menu.

  22. Norm Hunt says:

    Over the period of time the word Christianity has become expained to ever opens up scriptures is a Christian,not all gentile belivers that have come into the light of what scripture says in cloak themselves with the pagan holidays. Most roman engrained thinking and taught denominations have no convition of what is right and wrong in scripture. To paint ever gentile beliver of what is in the word and what is reveled to them is wrong,not all gentile belivers are roman engrained and think like rome,and they do shun off the pagan holidays ,like easter,christmass,halloween,ect.
    What we have to do is pray for the revelation of scripture to be reveled to the ones that are blinded by mans understanding and let the revelation of YHVH open up to them. Conviction comes throught the power of YHVH touching our hearts and minds will change things.
    Even Yahsua in the book of Luke near the end before his crusifixion confronted his our people about what they new and did know in what they understood and didn't understand and what they recreated for understanding in the word. YHVH opened his word from Peter to a generation of people that to the Hebrew people were and unclean people and even today the thinking is the same.
    As the revelation of scripture is opened through the Spirit of YHVH truths are opened up and our thoughts are turned from the pagan thinkings of Rome. Are call is to Pray for them that are lost in miss understanding, we can through as many stones and write hundreds of paragraphs and were a generation of people go astray in the word,if we fall short of pray nothing changes.
    There is a generation of gentiles that are coming closer and to a deeper understanding of what is written down in the word, and do turn from the pagan understands of rome.

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