The Jury Talks Back

12/25/2008

What if Christmas were a Jewish holiday?

Filed under: Uncategorized — aunursa @ 6:57 am

Merry Christmas to all of my Christian friends.

For your enjoyment here’s a lengthy piece that lightly parodies some of the cultural (non-religious) traditions of Christmas and some of the strictly legalistic aspects of Judaism.

LAWS OF XMAS

2. THE TREE

1. Any species of tree is kosher for use as a Xmas tree, provided that it has needles and not leaves.  In our lands it is customary to use a fir tree. [8]  It should be reasonably fresh, but not too fresh, in accordance with the principle “A Xmas tree with no fallen needles is like a sukkah with no buzzing bees.”

[8] If the lady of the house already has a fir, then any evergreen may be used.

2. The tree should be chopped down specifically for use as a Xmas tree; if it had been cut for lumber it is invalid.  If the tree was cut for general decorative purposes, but not specifically as a Xmas tree, some authorities allow it while others are strict.  A stolen tree is not valid for the mitzvah. [9] Fortunate is one who is able to chop his own tree himself. [10]

[9] One who cuts his own tree must make sure that he has permission from the landowner to do so.  Ideally, cut only from one’s own backyard.  A tree taken from a reshus harabim, such as the county park (which is actually a carmelis, not a reshus harabim,) is considered as stolen and invalid.

[10] One who is unable to cut his own tree should make sure to purchase it from a reputable dealer, or one who is certified by a national kashrus organization.

5. The required height of the tree is subject to many rules.  An indoor tree must be tall enough so that it reaches within 3 handbreadths of the ceiling. [14] An outdoor tree must be at least 20 cubits tall.

[14] Where local fire codes prohibit the use of such large trees, a smaller tree — even a bonsai — may be used, provided it has toy people around it who will make it appear tall.

Alas, there is much, much more.

18 Comments

  1. A Merry Christmas to you. As a Taoist (who was raised Christian) married to a (cultural-ethnic) Jew-turned-Athiest, I found this post hysterically funny. Thank you!

    Comment by aphrael — 12/25/2008 @ 8:58 am

  2. Ahhh, the wisdom of our fathers.

    Merry Christmas to all who celebrate it, and Happy New Year all year long!

    Comment by Ira — 12/25/2008 @ 10:06 am

  3. Terrifyingly, there’s a real work on Jewish ritual law which is being closely parodied here, called the Kitzur Shulchan Aruch. It’s an ultra-orthodox work, and fairly wide spread as a quick reference for questions of Jewish ritual law (which how I use it) and its style is pretty close to what you’ve read here. And it can get pretty nitpicky. For instance, the correct way to put on shoes is to put on the right foot first, then the left foot, then tie the left shoe, and then tie the right shoe. A G-d fearing Jew does not wear slip ons, apparently.

    Comment by kishnevi — 12/25/2008 @ 4:55 pm

  4. Alas, this is a not far from possible regulations the Democrats may impose. Just substitute relevant “saving the planet” and “sustainable” religion of nature worship language for the Judaism. :)

    Comment by Jim C. — 12/26/2008 @ 12:36 am

  5. re 3. What about the socks? Do you put them both on and then do to the shoes or do you take care of the right foot before starting on the left foot? I think there was an All in the Family episode about this.

    Comment by kaf — 12/26/2008 @ 5:41 am

  6. A G-d fearing Jew does not wear slip ons, apparently.

    Which is ironic, really, since when these rules first came about, all they had were either no shoes, or sandals of some sort…

    Comment by Scott Jacobs — 12/26/2008 @ 7:03 am

  7. […] tip to The Jury Talks Back.  And Happy Boxing Day, everyone! ..bruce.. Leave a […]

    Pingback by Adventures in Mormonism » Blog Archive » Christmas as a Jewish holiday — 12/26/2008 @ 10:55 am

  8. RE kishnevi comment #3: Alas, wearing slip ons, is OK:
    http://www.theyeshivaworld.com/weekly_torah.php?id=168

    “A shoe that has no laces, such as slip-on shoes, should be placed on the right foot first.”

    A sarcastic thanks to kishnevi for bringing back the twist in my stomach from decades ago when I first learned that someone actually said that there was a rule about this subject and that apparently really smart guys even debated and wrote about it. While reminders to be righteous are fine, after a while the messages just become meaningless background noise. Curse you, kishnevi (not really, of course 8-)).

    Comment by Ira — 12/26/2008 @ 2:14 pm

  9. I know this is a joke and it’s a clever one, but I think religious rules are comforting. Most rules are reasonable limits on free will that benefit the person and society. And the more detailed the rules are, the easier they can be to follow.

    Comment by DRJ — 12/26/2008 @ 2:52 pm

  10. I thankfully have rid myself of my ties to Judaism, for the very reasons parodied here.
    Cute take on the ritual laws though, a great deal of time was spent and I can approeciate it all. Thanks for the fun!

    Comment by pitchforksntorches — 12/26/2008 @ 3:45 pm

  11. DRJ–but there’s a limit to how trivial the rules can get. Do you really need to be told which shoe to put on first? The danger is that some people get focused on that sort of rule and skimp on some of the other rules, like the ones that say don’t lie or steal; and there are, even worse, some people who are willing to excuse people who skimp on those rules because they seem so devoted to following the petty rules. And these same people think that a woman should never appear in front of anyone other than her husband with her hair uncovered or an inch of her skin (except her face and hands) uncovered. Ever. And sometimes not even in front of her husband. And that she should never pray aloud in synagogue because, G-d forbid, some man might be tempted to have a sexual thought.

    Comment by kishnevi — 12/26/2008 @ 5:18 pm

  12. Kish,

    I think the danger is the rules will overtake the religion, and some people will believe they are more Godly than others because they do a better job conforming to the rules. In that case, the rules become an example of arrogance. But to me having detailed rules is not a flaw, it’s a benefit. It sublimates free will to humility and faith, but doesn’t eliminate free will because people can still choose to live or not live by the rules.

    Comment by DRJ — 12/26/2008 @ 5:32 pm

  13. Also, I don’t see a danger in having trivial rules, apart from arrogance as I mentioned above. Having rules is a way of making a blessed life simple, humble, and easy for believers to understand and follow. Almost every religion has a parallel: The obedient sheep of Christianity, the humility of Buddhism, and the patience of Hinduism.

    Comment by DRJ — 12/26/2008 @ 6:23 pm

  14. Re pitchforksntorches’ comment # 10: “I thankfully have rid myself of my ties to Judaism, for the very reasons parodied here.”
         Thus the need for the advice,

    “Don’t throw the baby out with the bath water.”

    Comment by Ira — 12/26/2008 @ 6:30 pm

  15. Ira,
    Look at Kish’s #11. Then reflect on all these rules that govern the mundane. I married out of the faith. A headstone erected to my memory. Fine, ‘thems the rules’. Then the Conservative Jewish Union and other Jewish organizations rule that Gay marriage is permissible. Here’s the ‘bathwater’
    a. Oppression of women is the higher expression of this religion.
    b. The heterosexual family is less important than “Jewish’ family.
    Meh & Feh.

    Comment by pitchforksntorches — 12/27/2008 @ 4:23 am

  16. Hi pitchforksntorches,
         I think Kishnevi’s comment #11 starts where my comment 8 (“While reminders to be righteous are fine, after a while the messages just become meaningless background noise”) left off. About your family’s rejecting you because of your choice of mate, you have my sincere sympathy. Another custom followed (foolishly in my opinion) by a few.

    Comment by Ira — 12/27/2008 @ 8:13 pm

  17. I actually celebrate both Christmas and Hannakah in my house, and we teach both traditions to my daughter. On Christmas Eve (Hannakah day 3 this year) we lit the Menorah candles and gave her a present. Then we turned the lights on the Christmas tree and put out cookies and Milk for Santa for his trip down the chimney. She sat on her Christian grandmothers lap and read “Where is Baby’s Dreidel” and sat in her Jewish grandmother’s lap to read “Olivia Helps with Christmas”. I’m sure our family tradidions violate more Orthodox kosher laws than I am capable of counting, but our daughter has a blast this time of year, and I think that’s ultimately what really matters.

    Comment by Sean P — 12/31/2008 @ 3:32 pm

  18. qsAfaaByS7VRW

    Comment by Matthew — 1/7/2009 @ 9:13 am

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