My heart nearly sunk down into my tuchus walking around Home Depot yesterday.
Christmas trees of every variety are now out in full force. Looking at the trees, my five year old son Zev observed: “I know that it’s not our holiday, but I wish we could have one of those trees in our house.”
I smiled. Humor him, I thought to myself. It’ll just go away.
Then he added, “Actually, I wish I was Christian so we could celebrate Christmas.” That’s the moment when my rabbinic heart sunk into my tuchus.
Fortunately, after years of preparation for this moment in the making, I was prepared. “Well, Zev I said. You know if we were Christian, then we wouldn’t be able to build a Sukkah in our backyard. Don’t you like to decorate our Sukkah?”
It didn’t take Zev long to respond. “That’s right!” he said. “If I was Christian there would be no lulav and etrog!” I smiled. Then he added for good measure, “And if we were Christian, we wouldn’t have Simchat Torah and wear those funny hats!” “Nope,” I smiled. “Christians don’t celebrate Simchat Torah and wear funny hats.”
There is a clear antidote to the “December dilemma,” which thanks to American commercialism, now begins for Jewish families the end of October. It turns out that when we choose to observe the joyful holidays in our own religion, than our kids appreciate what we have. Sukkot and Simchat Torah are two of the most joyful holidays in our shul. Lots of hard work goes into making these holidays special. For families deciding which “three days” to come to synagogue, I almost wish they chose to come on these days (along with Purim) instead of the High Holy Days.
As a rabbi, I do believe it is important for Jews to learn to appreciate the beauty inherent in other religious traditions. However, I am also reminded that the best antidote to facing the overwhelming Christmas rush isn’t to shelter our kids. It also can’t only be education in a vacuum. It’s to joyously celebrate, enabling them to recognize and embrace the beauty inherent in our own holidays.
Of course, being five years old, my son may feel differently about all of this tomorrow. But for now, one crisis has been averted. My heart is back where it should be. Now, on to the next one in the never ending journey in Jewish parenting.