I grew up Jewish in America. That’s probably why Christmas always feels like I’m crashing someone else’s party. And the person whose party I’m crashing doesn’t like me very much. Strange thing is, the party aspires to be a celebration of a spiritual ideal while actually celebrating something else entirely: consumerism. There’s nothing wrong with a holiday that celebrates consumerism – so long as it’s honest that that’s what it is. Those “at war” with Christmas are at war with its consumerism. Considering as consumerism is not the point of Christmas, maybe a “War On Christmas” is a good thing.
Do Unto Others & Tikkun Olam
Jesus – the point of the exercise – has vanished. “Do unto others” can’t compete with “Buy this now”. That’s not “Do unto others’s” fault. That’s ours. True fact: “Do unto others” is a very, very Jewish idea. It flows from “tikkun olam“.
Whether they like it or not (and whether they do it or not), every Jew must make the world a better place simply for having been in it. That is our obligation: to repair the world in some small way. Big ways are good, too, but harder to pull off. Bottom line: the more “mensch-y” the better.
This atheist has always been grateful to Hebrew school for making me the atheist I am today. I say that with almost no sarcasm. Judaism is more than just a religious faith to most Jews. It’s a deep-rooted culture born of isolation. Europe’s white, Christian culture refused to let the Jews in their midst play in any of their reindeer games.
Two Thousand Years Of Isolation
Jews lived in separate villages – shtetls. More cosmopolitan Jews moved to the large cities. But, there, restrictive laws forced Jews to live in particular neighborhoods called “ghettos”. The first ghetto popped up in Venice, Italy.
Marriages between Jews and Gentiles describes a null set. That separation is why Jews are susceptible to Tay Sachs disease. Two thousand years of genetic isolation can do that to a group. A few non-Jewish groups can get it, too. But, it’s isolation as a group that causes it to visit a group.
Growing up Jewish means growing up with the Jewish religious faith and it means growing up inside what was for a long time an insulated culture. It’s got its own dietary laws, its own cultural laws, its own way of seeing the world. This is how one can be Jewish without every walking into a synagogue.
As we approach another Christmas, we do it with anti-Semitism at the boil. That makes Christmas even weirder for some of us. Current Christmas feels like a horror movie perversion of the Christmas Spirit. That doesn’t seem right. But there it is. If being at war with that is being “at war with Christmas”, where do I enlist?
So, if no one minds, I’ll dedicate this Christmas to quietly doing unto others.
Tis the season!