Halloween — Purim in Disguise?
When you look at Jewish holidays, you find something in common with all of them: they all provide a special opportunity to give. On Purim, we send our friends baskets with hametaschen and other goodies. On Sukkot, we invite guests into our Sukkah to share food and experience. On Passover we proclaim “let all who are hungry come and eat.” On Yom Kippur – well, maybe we can invite people to fast with us.
Jewish holidays are usually celebrations of plenty—moments of recognition of the good we have been given. That is why we give, feed, share, donate, and invite—we show our awareness of our blessings by sharing them others.
That is why Halloween is not a Jewish holiday. The very act of walking up to someone’s door – usually, a complete stranger, and saying “Gimme!” This is not a Jewish act. It is all in good fun, I am sure. But it is not Jewish fun. And we don’t ever stop being Jewish, even just for Halloween.
That’s why my kids don’t go out for Halloween. Of course they want to, and every year we have the conversation of trying to figure out how to make everyone happy. One year, my kids dressed up and went out with bags FULL of candy and found people to give candy to rather than take from. It felt like a good compromise.
So why not just give, and not go out? Because it is cultivating bad behavior. Most of us, if our kids said, “Gimme a cookie!” would say “Excuse me?” So why on this one night should we reward people for doing the same thing? Again, just one night? We don’t stop being Jewish, even for one night.
Regardless of what you chose to do with your family, use it as an opportunity for conversation. Ask your kids what values Halloween expresses. Ask them how this is similar to, or different from, other holidays they know about. Ask them how they can make Halloween more Jewish. And remind them what an honor it is, and a responsibility, to be Jewish all the time, not just when we want to.