Let's get to it: Yes, I'm a religious Jew AND I think Christmas is a lovely holiday.
I have gotten some questions and comments over the past few weeks regarding my feelings toward Christmas because I post about how much I enjoy seeing the lights, singing the music, and watching other people celebrate their faith. I posted a video singing The Christmas Song, I attended the Omaha Symphony's Christmas Celebration, and I created a holiday makeup look for Christmas and Chanukah. How can I do that if I don't celebrate Christmas and am, in fact, a religious Jew?
I think that's a really great question.
Judaism is not a prosthelytizing religion. We don't believe that everyone needs to be Jewish - in fact, we turn you away three times if you want to convert because we believe that you can accomplish as much and go to heaven without being a Jew. Orthodox Jews believe in something called the Noahide laws - seven laws that are given to all mankind that we need to live our lives by. And that's it. Jews, on the other hand, have 613 commandments to practice.
My husband describes this in a fantastic way. He says it's akin to a first-born son. Do the parents love their first-born more than the rest of their children or reward him more for fulfilling his particular role? No! But they do put more of an onus of responsibility on that first-born. He has a ton more rules to follow than the children that are born after him. Similarly, in the Jewish perspective, God has given us 613 commandments that only apply to us. It doesn't make us better or worse that we have that responsibility, simply different.
So, with this in mind, I love seeing my non-Jewish friends practicing their faith in such a beautiful and joyous way! I don't feel left out that I can't celebrate Christmas with them - it's more like I'm cheering from the sidelines. I'm at the game but not playing. And while I'm there, I'm going to take in all the sights, smells, and sounds that are so much fun.
Christmas music? Fantastic! It can't be beat, and not just because so many of the classics were written by Jewish composers. Twinkling lights? I love seeing people decorate their homes. Wholesome family time? Simply the best. And while Christians are celebrating their holiday, I get to celebrate Chanukah with my family and friends. We light the menorah. We take joy in the miracle of the menorah as well as our liberation and independence from so long ago. We share latkes and donuts. We exchange presents of our own.
So with that in mind, have a very merry Christmas, a happy Chanukah, and a wonderful new year!
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