Monday, December 19, 2005

An Interview with Rabbi Bradley Hirschfield

Rabbi Hirschfield offers sage advice and some sober thought in this interview at
Why is there more talk each year about this being a season where our holidays are "under siege"?

The "war on Christmas" language—and you hear that language much more from the Christian world than from the Jewish world—I'm actually sympathetic to it. Not because I think there's an actual war on Christmas; I do think that there is a kind of bankruptcy to political correctness that tells people to call 12-foot blue spruces covered with ornaments, crystals, and lights a "holiday tree." That's ridiculous, because it just begs the question: What holiday? Christmas!

It's crazy. Because that's not a war on Christmas. In the desire not to say anything hurtful, which was the beautiful motivation behind political correctness, we've gotten carried away. The price we pay for not saying anything hurtful is not saying anything meaningful at all. So they're right in saying, "Stop telling me I have to call that a 'holiday tree.' That is offensive." It is offensive. Unless you want to call it a holiday tree because you like the observance without the holiday. That 's another question: It is a holiday tree for a whole lot of people who say, "I have no interest in Christmas, but what a beautiful thing to put colored lights in my house."
But that's not all. He goes much deeper than "I'm OK, you're OK."
And what about the fact that the trees are pagan rather than Christian?

What does that "actually" mean? Hanukkah menorahs are actually Zoroastrian. Tefillin [two wooden boxes, containing parchment scrolls with verses from Exodus and Deutoronomy, one worn on the head and the other on the arm of observant Jews when reciting morning prayers] are actually Canaanite. Everything has its roots in something else.

Should we be teaching children those historical linkages?

Yes, for one reason: So that nobody ever believes that they own the full story of their symbol.
I don't want to copy the entire interview, but I do want to finish with one last quote from the interview:
All the stuff about saying "Happy holidays" and not saying "Merry Christmas" is offensive to Christians. As I was getting out of a cab last night, a cab driver said "Merry Christmas" to me. He was African, and he saw my kippah and said, "I see your hat. You're religious. Merry Christmas." And I said "Merry Christmas to you." He wasn't trying to convert me and he wasn't trying to take over our culture. He was actually offering me the most sincere blessing he knew. And everyone on the left is going to have to chill out, because every time you hear "Merry Christmas" it is not someone who's trying to convert you or take over your school.
Now go read the whole thing!

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