Merry Christmas!


By Nitzakhon

I am honored, once again, by Father Michael’s request to scribe some thoughts for Forward in Christ magazine. To lead off my essay, in the spirit of the season: Wishing you all a wonderful and meaningful Christmas.  Not the gift-filled, consumer-driven pap that’s pushed on us 24/7 – but honest and deep reflection on life, goodness, family and home, and the joy of good deeds done selflessly.

So.  For those just seeing me for the first time, I am a denominationally-Conservative Jew.  In actuality, following my heart, I am Conservadox.  I wear a kippa all the time.  I pray with tefillin in the mornings several times a week and am considering purchasing Tzitzit.  I am married to a non-Jew but we have converted our children and I am making a spirited attempt to keep the kashrut dietary laws despite my wife’s occasional eye rolling.  If not technically correct in that effort – living where I live there’s darned little that’s stringently kosher, I at least am trying to get my kids to be aware.  But onward.

America is a Christian nation in its root culture, but founded by people who – fleeing persecution (including one of my documented Mayflower ancestors) – eventually created a country that values the free exercise of faith.  They valued it so much that they enshrined it in the First Amendment:

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.

In my youth, growing up with a more-or-less secular Jewish mother and a nominally Christian father, we sang Christmas carols and even – gasp! – went around the neighborhood to regale the neighbors.  We had a Christmas tree.  And in those days, the traditional seasonal greeting was Merry Christmas! and not the watered-down Happy Holidays!

And you know, I never took offense at that.  Even understanding I was a Jew, I never had a problem accepting the fundamentally Christian nature of where I lived, nor did I ever take offense at someone wishing me a Merry Christmas.  Why should I?  Wishing me that means wishing me good things.  Joy, peace, good will towards others, charity; these are not strictly Christian things, but I believe are – or should be – universal things that we live by.

There is a story of Rabbi Hillel who, when challenged to teach the whole Torah while standing on one foot, lifted one off the ground and said, “That which is hateful to you, do not do to your fellow.  That is the whole Torah.  The rest is commentary.”

Trying my best, I live by that Golden Rule.  I am polite in public.  I hold doors open.  One of my traditions is to give charity, and I give past the pain point to one of my favorites, Connections Israel.  I also help closer to home, giving to the Salvation Army among others.  One of the traditions in Judaism is, before lighting the candles on Erev Shabbat (the night of Shabbat), is to put money into a charity, or Tzedakah, box we keep.  

I give my kids a coin each, and they put it in with my reminder that no matter how poor you are, even if you can only put in a penny, do so.  There are always people worse off.  And by having them decide where that money is donated it gives them a stake in it.  One year it went to refugees in the Ukraine, another year to our Synagogue.  This year I am suggesting it goes to a local food bank.  Another thing I do to teach the idea of charity is to give them money when we pass the Salvation Army bell ringer.

In Judaism it is said that one never knows when the world will end.  One also never knows what the world’s accounting balance is between good and evil (yes, we believe in an evil force).  So it is always possible that one good deed could shift the world from a negative to a positive balance, and right in the nick of time before the world ends.  Thus, any good deed has the possibility of saving the world.

So, my Christian readers, again – Merry Christmas.  May your deeds be exemplars of the Golden Rule.  Let joy and charity fill your heart, and overflow through to the year.


Hunger Distracts

When a man is hungry

His eyes fall to his stomach

Rather than looking up to G-d

When a woman is hungry

She looks at others who have more

And envies their satisfied feeling

When a child is hungry

They cry out to their parents

Who then get angry they cannot feed their child

Hunger leads to sin

Envy and Wrath

At those who have more

Let us choose to help those who have less

Let us fill the void inside them

Let us help them stand to help themselves

Only then can their eyes rise to where they belong

Looking up to seek Him

For if they look they will find Him

If their hearts can be heard

Over a silent and full stomach


Nitzakhon is the pen name for a New Hampshire based blogger.

Forward in Christ

Proclaiming the Faith and Order of the Church, given to us by Christ.