Sunday, October 27, 2013

Halloween: What on Earth am I Missing?

Dear Henry,
       I am going to toot my own horn for just a second. If you haven't noticed I am a very hip rabbi. To say I'm in with the times would be a massive understatement. I know what Breaking Bad is. I know the theme songs to the OC and One Tree Hill by heart. I know Snoop Doggy Dogg changed his name to Snoop Dogg, and then again, to Snoop Lion. I have two fantasy football teams, and I am beating most of my opponents. To put it simply, I am cooler than ice cold. Cooler than the other side of the pillow. After receiving a text message from me, One girl responded "a texting rabbi! I always knew Jews were so cool." Little did she know I also got BBM. Like I said, I'm cool.
      So it greatly confuses me that I completely, and absolutely do not for the life of me understand the American borderline obsession-like craze about Halloween. I write this not as a religious Jew, but as a father of adorably precious little children. 
      I first noticed this feeling of confusion last year in August, when we first moved back to America, after having lived in Jerusalem Israel for two years. We went to the book store, and I was amazed to see that the whole kids section was dedicated to scary stories involving Halloween, which was coming up right around the corner, in a mere 3 months. I thought to myself quite simply, as much as I want my children to be mortified and spooked before they go to sleep, I will pass on these books for now.
      I again recalled this feeling of bewilderment a few weeks ago when I was in New Jersey for a Shabbos. We were walking around a large community and I saw on every other lawn statues of bloodied, mangled corpses, some playing the piano. Some were half-buried. Again I thought of my kids: this is probably awesome seeing bleeding dead looking people in people's lawns. These are healthy images to inhabit the innocent minds of my 2 and 4 year olds. Although an observant Jew, I get the appeal of having beautiful lights on one's trees outside, or even a friendly looking dude with a cool white beard on a sled, with some deer behind him. Thats pretty cool. But bloodied, mangled corpses?Hands and legs sticking out of the ground?
      Henry, maybe I am old fashion, but this type of stuff downright gives me the willies. 
      Maybe instead of having limbs scattered across the lawn, we could make new types of lawn decorations. Maybe we should start making statutes of a young man or woman helping an elderly person cross the street. Or maybe a young whippersnapper helping up a stranger who had tripped and fallen to the ground. Or perhaps depict an image of a person giving money or a sandwich to someone less fortunate. Or even a high school student shlepping her grandfather's groceries up to his apartment.  These are the images I want to implant into my children's brains when they walk outside-- not the annual vivid memory of bloodied human remains.
      Is our obsession with the morbidity of Halloween any indication of our society at large?  Like, perhaps our TV shows are too violent, and our video games are too graphic?  Am I living on a different planet? What am I missing? Maybe all this stuff is good old fashion plain fun. But can't we have fun by going to a baseball game, playing checkers, or going apple-picking?
     This might sound radical--which is crazy-- but when my kids get older, I would much rather they remember their childhood autumns by the stunningly exquisite leaves on the trees, than by the ghosts and skeletons hanging from them.
Danny Wolfe

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