This Sunday is Halloween, a night of dressing up in costumes, knocking on stranger’s doors and asking for candy! What kid doesn’t like this day! And parents even enjoy the trick or treating with the caveat to our youth, ‘oh, you don’t need all of that candy’ and then we pick out our favorite, stashing them away for our own indulgence.
The question comes up every year – should Jews participate in Halloween? And while there are many opinions spanning from, absolutely not to what’s the harm?, Judaism has its own traditions of golems, ghouls and ghosts.
The golem is the first Frankenstein story. Created by Rabbi Judah Löw ben Bezulel of Prague in the 16th century to protect the Jewish community from persecution. When all three letters, alef, mem, tav (truth), are written on its forehead, it comes to life and protects the community. When they are no longer in need of the golem, the alef is erased and the word meit – dead, remains and the creature becomes inanimate once again.
The Torah introduces the witch of Endor who King Saul asks to summon the ghost of Samuel because he is afraid of the Phillistines. God is not giving him any answers about how he can defeat them and he needed answers. Unfortunately, Samuel was not happy with being awoken and Saul was destined to die the next day. (I Samuel 28)
Mythic literature is found in Kabbalah and stories from our traditions, both Ashkenazic and Sephardic, are found throughout Jewish tradition.
Halloween has its foundation in the 2000 year old Celtic tradition and in that time, considered a religious observance. Halloween today is observed by the majority as the day of getting dressed in costumes and over indulging on candy. The religious observance has long gone by the wayside, as customs, observances, and traditions evolved over time.
So is it okay for Jews to celebrate Halloween as it is currently observed in the main stream world? I would say yes! Go trick or treating! Don those costumes! And add a Jewish component that fits your family. Donate some candy to a shelter. Send your kid with a tzedakah box to collect for a charity of your family’s choosing (remember those UNICEF boxes of old?). Donate your used costumes to a family shelter after the fun of trick or treating. There are many ways to add something Jewish to the celebration!