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festive for all

12/23/2021 08:42:16 AM

Dec23

Rabbi Jeffrey Myers

People not of the Christian faith sometimes find the excessive commercialization of Christmas a bit too much. Truth be told, a significant number of Christian clergy feel the same way. Holiday sales account for approximately 20% of the annual sales of most stores, although there is no doubt that certain stores rely even more on Christmas sales than 20%. For some it is not dissimilar to NJ shore businesses that open during Memorial Day weekend, as their main income is derived during those 14 weeks.

I can understand that the near-total immersion in Christmas no matter where one goes can make non-Christians uncomfortable. All stores are brightly festooned, television movies are of the same Christmas themes, radio stations that play music generally play just Christmas music, school concerts all feature Christmas carols and so many homes are decorated inside and out. I enjoy listening to Christmas carols, having sung them in school choruses growing up, and appreciate the beauty of so many of them. Visiting a dear friend’s home, so beautifully decorated with a tree in the living room, and all of the delicious smells wafting throughout the home made the visit so enjoyable that I regularly looked forward to it.  Having lived in New York for many years, a tour of the usual New York City sites was always on the schedule, to visit the outdoor shops in Bryant Park, take in the windows at Macy’s and even walk through the beautifully decorated interior, to squeeze through the crowds at Rockefeller Center to view the magnificent tree, and just take in the festive nature of it all.

There is nothing forbidding one from enjoying the celebrations of our neighbors, regardless of their faith. When we appreciate the beauty of their faith, we get to know them just a bit better, and those silos that we inhabit begin to disintegrate. I have experienced the reverse, when people who are not Jewish have sat at my Seder table or participated in a number of other Jewish experiences. Appreciation for the observances of different faiths is an important and necessary part of our make-up as caring human beings that dissolves the negative feelings we harbor of misunderstanding, mistrust, jealousy, fear and loathing, which eventually takes us to H. It is then that our transformation is complete, and we have gone to the Dark Side. Openness to the traditions and customs of people of faiths other than our own erects walls that prevents the aforementioned negative feelings from entering. As God said to Cain: Sin couches at the door. Cain didn’t listen and we know the end result.

Let us not only hear God’s advice, but heed it as well. Don’t let the negative emotions in, for once they get in the door, it is really difficult to expel them, if not too late. Enjoy the beauty of Christmas, but remember that Judaism also has beauty. Since Christmas Eve coincides this year with Erev Shabbat, why not engage in the beauty of Shabbat? Invite people over that you feel safe gathering with, and have a Shabbat meal, replete with lit candles, wine and challah. Savor the beauty of your own faith as you savor the beauty of other faiths.

To my readers who observe Christmas, may your Christmas be joyous and meaningful to you.

Sun, August 7 2022 10 Av 5782