July 21, 2024
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According to Jewish law, Halloween is not to be celebrated by Jews. This restriction can be traced to the Torah which, for obvious reasons, does not specifically mention Halloween but expressly bars the following of non-Jewish traditions: “You shall not copy the practices of the land of Egypt where you dwelt, or of the land of Canaan to which I am taking you; nor shall you follow their laws.” (Vayikra 18: 1—7) From this pasuk, we extrapolate a broader restriction applicable to any non-Jewish practices. This also might be the first recorded rule against copycatting and possibly a forerunner to copyright laws.

So, biblically speaking, we are not permitted to “copy the practices” of others including Halloween, even if certain elements of such practices remind us of our own traditions. For example, one could argue that the Halloween costume custom shares some commonality with wearing masks (masechot) on Purim. In addition, the giving candy on Halloween is not wholly unlike edible gift-giving (shalach manot) on Purim. Opening the front door to greet others on Halloween, to a very small degree, is arguably reminiscent of the door-opening for Eliyahu HaNavi on Pesach. Of course, these Jewish practices have purely Jewish origins and any overlap with non-Jewish practices is purely coincidental. That said, nothing prohibits non-Jews from copying Jewish practices, which is one reason that so many non-kosher recipes feature kosher salt.

While Jewish law forbids celebrating Halloween, there also are practical reasons why Jews and Halloween would be a problematic combination. For example, imagine small children schlepping around heavy sacks filled with kugel and knishes. Lugging lokshen and carrying kasha would put quite a (perishable) damper on the evening. This would likely occur if Jews participated in Halloween, however, because no self-respecting Jewish mother is going to greet a child at the door with anything less than a hearty meal. Such solid nourishment might be well-meaning, but most kids would not last more than a few blocks with such a heimesh load. It would quickly look like a scene from Yetziat Mitzrayim.

For many Jews, the scary costumes on Halloween would not resonate because in general Jews do not worry about ghosts, goblins and ghouls. Such demons and monsters are not what truly frightens the average Jew. If you want to scare the average Jew, you would be better off dressing up as either overly-protective parents who have decided to move in with their grown-up children (this would terrify any child) or grown-up children who have decided to move back in with their empty-nesting parents (this would horrify any parent).

For the record, there are many other costumes that likely would scare the average Jew. For example, if you truly want to petrify your Jewish neighbors, dress up as a (i) crock-pot that breaks just before shabbos, resulting in a cholent-less shabbos, (ii) pre-chuppah smorgasbord that has just been closed before you arrive or (iii) newspaper article reporting on a global kishke shortage. Other costumes that would frighten the average Jew would include (i) an alarmingly unfunny synagogue president who insists on delivering excessively long and unamusing announcements every single week, (ii) a chazzan who is paid by the note and thus intentionally drags out davening with the world’s most drawn-out nusach, (iii) a school principal who staunchly advocates for longer school days, Sunday learning and Saturday night exams, (iv) a buzz-killing pulpit rabbi who bans kibitzing, schmoozing and noshing and (v) a pareve butcher.

There are other reasons why Halloween is not a good fit for the average Jew. Most Jewish parents do not allow their children to roam the streets after it turns dark, let alone while knocking on the doors of perfect strangers. On the parental protection spectrum, many Jewish parents tend to fall in the category of “helicopter” parents (those who hover overhead, overseeing every aspect of a child’s life). In fact, if Jews were to celebrate Halloween, some Jewish parents probably would do the “trick-or-treat” thing for their kids, schlepping door to door to collect candy for the precious little angels who would remain at home in their plastic bubbles.

Another problem with Jews celebrating Halloween would be candy-related kashrut. There are many types of candy and other treats that may not have the proper or any hashgacha. For this reason, Jews would insist on giving and receiving only certain approved snacks. Imagine how crumbled hamantaschen would become after bouncing around in a heavy bag for several hours. They would essentially turn into hamantaschen farfel.

Final thought: Why would anyone in their right mind choose a trick over a treat? The very fact that this could even be a question makes Halloween a completely “un-Jewish” holiday, not to mention a clear FCC (Fresser’s Code of Conduct) violation.

By Jonathan Kranz

 

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