Friday, November 1, 2013

Shabbat Message - Halloween and other musings


As a child, Halloween was never a big holiday for our family.  In fact, I don't remember donning a costume and trick or treating, but I do remember stocking up on candy for the kids (and adults) in our neighborhood who would come around in costumes looking to fill up their bags with delicious treats.  I know that many Christian, Jewish, and Muslim religious leaders rail against the holiday every year, ordering their congregations to stay at home and turn off the lights to trick or treaters.  The main reason that many do not like this holiday is because the origin of Halloween is pagan (from a Celtic Harvest Festival).  But rather than list the reasons why a Jew should not celebrate Halloween (there are many reasons), I want to focus on how Halloween is similar to, and yet remarkably different than, another Jewish holiday:  Purim. 
There are some remarkable parallels between these two holidays!  On both holidays, those celebrating dress up in costumes, and both holidays revolve around candy.  On Halloween, people go to their neighbors' homes to 'take' candy or treats, but on Purim, we do just the opposite.  Rather than 'take' treats from our neighbors, we 'give' candy to our neighbors in the form of mishloach manot.  Halloween and Purim also have an interesting parallel - on both holidays, we allow people to our doorsteps, but on Purim, we go one step further - we bring people into our homes for an obligatory meal called a Purim Seudah, a Purim feast.  Both holidays achieve something that we very much need in Boca Raton, a land of gated communities:  it allows us to let our guard down and invite others into our lives.  This practice of welcoming guests (hachnasat orchim) should come second nature to us Jews, but often times, we fall short regarding this very important mitzvah.  These instincts of welcoming might be part of our history (i.e. Abraham welcoming guests into his tent), but we still must develop them and this takes time and practice.
On Monday and Tuesday, I attended a conference in New York City called Clergy 2.0:  Leading Through Relationship.  The conference was a collaborative effort through the Rabbinical Assembly and JOIN for Justice.  Close to fifty rabbis gathered to apply the methodology of community organizing to our rabbinates and communities.  These include building a culture of relationship, deepening relationship with others, developing new leaders, bringing Jewish values to the public square, and engaging our communities in social justice/Tikkun Olam.  
Of course, these practices are nothing new for me as I have been talking about building a relational or covenantal community for years!  I have given many divrei Torah about this these subjects, but I urge you to re-read a dvar torah I gave four years about the listening campaign we had at Shaarei Kodesh where we met with close to 100 of our congregants through a series of 'house meetings'.  
We plan on continuing our growth as a community that focuses on the depth of our relationships, on giving and sharing with each other, and connecting to God.  
I look forward to building deeper relationships with all of you this Shabbat.  On Friday, we'll begin with our First Shabbats program at 5:30 pm for our families with young children, followed by our We've Got The Beat Shabbat, our special drumming service, at 6:00 pm.  On Saturday morning, we'll be celebrating the bar mitzvah of Steve Blaine. 
For those of you who will be knocking on doors tonight, take some time to introduce yourselves to your neighbors before you 'take', and for those of you who are 'giving', make sure you do the same.  In this way, you will 'treat yourself' to an opportunity of welcoming others into your lives and hopefully building some new relationships.  I can't think of anything more Jewish than that! 

Shabbat Shalom.

Rabbi David Baum