What a meaningful way for a Jew to observe Christmas! Many of us came together at the Temple to prepare 400 meals for people who are down on their luck and who struggle to survive, let alone celebrate Christmas in a joyous way. It was beautiful to see our people cooking and chopping and cutting; all of us knowing that we were bringing a measure of joy and caring into the lives of people who are inclined to feel rejected and impoverished, especially on a day when much of our society celebrates with delicious food, lavish gifts, and families united. Yes, we all felt great gratification in the knowing that we were performing a Mitzvah of reaching beyond ourselves to those who are far less fortunate.
While Christmas has become so commercialized and focused upon material things, we know that Christmas commemorates the birth of Jesus, with Christians believing that it is through belief in Jesus, as the Messiah sent by God, that we gain personal salvation or eternal life. We Jews have always rejected that notion, but let me set forth a few of the reasons for why we do not embrace the true and religious meaning of Christmas.
*Christianity teaches that faith in Jesus leads to salvation. Judaism demands obedience to divine commandments; man must be God’s co-worker in the world.
*To the Jew- God has no form, nor has He ever, nor will He ever assume any form. The Jew cannot understand the Christian doctrine that God took the form of man through Jesus.
*The Jew does not believe in an intermediary between man and God. Everyone has immediate access to God and to eternity. Judaism maintains that “all the righteous of the peoples of the world have a share in the world to come.”
So let us enjoy the songs and the lights. Personally, I recall the way in which my family “observed” Christmas. We would drive as a family to the Marina district of San Francisco and we would marvel at the beautiful lights decorating the houses and the yachts. I knew from an early age that Christmas was not my holiday, and respected that it was a cherished day to my Christian friends
At this time of hope, let us join with “all people of good will,” and together let us create a better and kinder world.