Monday, December 17, 2012

The Shanda of "Chrismukkah"


This article on CNN, which is titled "Celebrating Chrismukkah: Shalom Stockings and Hanukkah Bushes," showcases a deeply troublesome trend that is growing in America, and perhaps elsewhere in the world. Interfaith couples, seemingly more male-Jewish, female-Christian have found a way to circumvent their cognitive dissonance by "blending" their two traditions together into a mish-mash of trees with Jewish stars and other Judaica-related ornaments.

To me, this whole phenomenon is a shanda - or in English, a total embarrassment.

Seriously?! Does any Jewish person in their right mind NOT find this offensive?
In an attempt to cover up and ignore the blatant incompatibility of the two vastly different, contradictory, and historically belligerent (more so in the direction of Christian --> Judaism) religious perspectives, these couples have watered down the essence of their distinct beliefs and mushed them together into an incomprehensible facade of a holiday.

It's a poorly designed artifice that consists of a bright, shiny, and attractive gilded coating that disguises the sheer worthlessness of rot within.

While attending a recent family Chanukah party, I spoke with a female cousin who is married to a Christian man. Their son, now 6-years old, is living a lift of total conflict of identity. His mother and grandmother (his maternal grandfather is no longer living) strongly encourage him to partake in Jewish activities, celebrate the holidays with our family, attend their local Jewish day school, and go to shul on occasion. However, with the lack of a Jewish father figure of any sort, along with contemptuous and contradictory opinions being espoused by his father, the boy doesn't have a source of Jewish instruction like he should at his age.

He is stifled. He has expressed on his own that he desires to come to shul every Shabbos and do other things with his more observant friends and classmates (who have a complete set of Jewish parents), but he is often prevented from doing so either because his father overtly objects, or there simply isn't anyone to guide him, teach him, or accompany him to shul.

My cousin summed it up quite poignantly by admitting with a sigh, "It's actually a very bad thing to marry outside the faith."

I've never heard another intermarried person ever admit that aloud. I hope she somehow figures out to raise her son in an appropriate Jewish way... but for now I weep for the boy.

I have another relative on the other side of the family, this one male, who married a Christian woman, and after many years of marriage, she not only has exerted her domineering influence over their halachically non-Jewish children, but brainwashed this relative into following her whole-heartedly into her world of religious observance. He now detests the rest of us - his Jewish relatives, even those who aren't observant, and doesn't come to any family functions (to which my parents invite everyone, regardless of level of religious observance or marital status), because she has warped him into finding our religious beliefs distasteful. To me, this is a horrifying example of what the Torah tells us; that marrying daughters of other religions will lead us astray after their religion.

To be clear: I have nothing against non-Jewish people. I am more than happy that they celebrate and observe their holidays and beliefs/traditions. They have their role to play in our world, contribute to the growth and productivity of society, have every right to exist, and even merit a portion in the World to Come as long as they keep the 7 Mitzvos of the Bnei Noach. We all exist together b'tzelem Elokim, all fulfilling our distinct jobs in this physical existence.

What irks me to no end are the self-deluding Jewish people (and their significant others) who think they can inter-date and intermarry and end up okay. It simply won't happen. They'll be lost to us, and their children after them will be lost to us.

Our halacha and observances will be subsumed under the general wishy-washy conglomeration that has characterized Christianity from the start, as it absorbed and adopted the multitude of local pagan practices from the peoples it engulfed as it spread around the world.

Lighting a Chanukiah next to a Christmas tree is a complete and utter contradiction and slap-in-the-face to what the Maccabees risked and gave their lives to achieve in recapturing and purifying the Beis Hamikdash. They shed their blood to remove the foreign influences from the central physical manifestation of our connection to G-d, and we light the Chanukiah to remember their sacrifice, bravery, and commitment to Torah and Mitzvos above assimilation and adoption of beliefs incongruent to our own.

The mere fact that these individuals in the CNN article can find meaning in a blended tradition shows how weak and inane their own Judaism is. If you have no foundation, then there is nothing to build on. Even if you do have a foundation - say significant Jewish day school through Bar/Bat Mitzvah age - unless you continue to build on top of that with further Jewish education, all you have is a big cement block embedded in the ground, upon which almost anything can be placed - even if it is contradictory to that which you began life with.

I've seen it happen to several of my own peers who attended the same Orthodox day school as I did, from the 2-year-olds through the 8th grade. It's as though they simply chucked everything they had learned out the window the last time they left the building. High school was a period of freedom and exploration, without any meaningful connection to Judaism, college was no better, and now a few of them have actually intermarried. One, thank G-d, got divorced recently, but another has already had a child with his non-Jewish wife.

All this makes me very frustrated and sad. I wish these wayward Jews would see the error of their ways. This is not a post about kiruv on the whole, but the crossing (no pun intended) of a line that should never, ever be crossed in the first place. In my view, these individuals can be as non-observant as they want to be (though of course being observant of Torah and Mitzvos is the ideal and should be encouraged), but they can't date and marry gentiles. If someone isn't shomer Shabbos and kashrus, but generally still cares about Judaism, even nominally, then their is hope to engage him or her and help them return to the fold. For someone who has made that treacherous decision to choose a life partner who isn't from our people, I don't know what to say or do with him/her other than say I feel betrayed.

They have betrayed their G-d, their people, their families and friends, their parents, and most of all, themselves.

No amount of newfangled, kitschy Chrismukkah traditions will ever make up for that. Fluff remains fluff - utter nonsense - without real, meaningful connection to that which we know to be absolute Truth.

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