Converting to Judaism, how do I explain to family about Xmas?

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  • #618654
    rachriv
    Member

    Hi, I was raised in an interfaith Jewish-Christian family, with a Jewish father and Christian mother. Recently, I’ve made the decision to pursue a halachic conversion to Judaism. Unfortunately, this has already caused a lot of pain to my family, who I believe view my decision to convert as a rejection, i.e. “You’re not Jewish enough for me.” I have tried to reassure them that this is a personal choice which has nothing to do with them, but I understand why it’s hard. I am very close with my family and am worried that my conversion will cause them even further pain, the the more I progress.

    What I am really worried about is Christmas, which is a big to do in our family. I don’t think my family realizes that I will not be able to participate in the future. We’ve already had a very difficult discussion about me no longer being able to eat in their house (we came up with a quasi-solution, that I would bring my own food when I come over and use paper plates/plastic cutlery) but we haven’t yet broached the topic of Christmas.

    Here is what I am wondering: before I bring this devastating news to my family, are there ANY aspects of the holiday I can still participate in (i.e. decorating the tree, exchanging presents) or is the entire thing treif? I know it’s probably doubtful that I will be able to take part in any way, and also that I will need to confirm with a rabbi, but I was just wondering if anyone here has experience dealing with Christmas, conversions and families. How do I maintain Shalom bayis and respect for my parents while sitting out of the one major holiday they celebrate each year?

    Is there any way that celebrating Christmas in a non-religious way could be compatible with this mitzvah? Could I honour Jesus as a rabbi and teacher (he was Jewish, after all) without believing he was the messiah? Even as I write this I know the answer is probably “no”, but I would just be curious to hear how others in the observant Jewish community would handle my situation…

    Thanks so much for reading!

    #1193118
    mr magoo
    Participant

    Wrong place. You need to speak with a rabbi who deals with conversions, and who has dealt with such situations.

    #1193119
    Joseph
    Participant

    The entire Christmas is treif and cannot be celebrated or honored in any manner. Furthermore, Jesus is considered to be a rasha/evil person and cannot be considered in any favorable light.

    edited

    #1193120
    Joseph
    Participant

    Additionally, under Jewish law a convert, once converted, is considered to no longer have any relationship with his biological family. This is true to the point that under pure biblical law it is even technically permitted for a convert to marry his biological mother if she also converts. The biblical obligation of honoring one’s parents doesn’t apply to them, though by rabbinical edict some obligations apply and marriage to them is prohibited.

    #1193121
    Lilmod Ulelamaid
    Participant

    I have no personal experience in the mater and am not qualified to advise. But, I do feel obligated to say the following: The answer to your last question is DEFINITELY NO!!!!

    The Jews have a very different view of him, and that is probably the most basic difference between Judaism and chrisianity. I think it is worthwhile for you to do some research on the topic – find a book that discusses the Orthodox view of him.

    That is unrelated to your current dilemna of dealing with your family. But if you are now Jewish or wish to become Jewish (it wasn’t clear to me if you have actually converted yet or not), it is important that you understand CLEARLY the differences in beliefs between Jews and Christians. As someone who was born Jewish and does not have to confront these issues, it is not a topic that I must delve into deeply, but it seems to me that that this is a topic that is CRUCIAL for a convert to have a firm understanding of.

    In terms of your dilemma with your family, all I can do is offer you my sympathy. It must be a very difficult issue to deal with and one which requires an experienced and Wise Rabbi’s guidance.

    You need to speak to a Rabbi who is very experienced in these matters and who is clearly coming from a Torah perspective and is widely accepted in the Orthodox world. I wish you luck in finding the right Rabbi to guide you.

    I do know that there is a Rabbi Meir Fund in New York who has a lot of experience with converts and seems to be reputable (I know someone who converted through him). Perhaps he would be a good person to speak to.

    #1193122
    Lilmod Ulelamaid
    Participant

    “Additionally, under Jewish law a convert, once converted, is considered to no longer have any relationship with his biological family. This is true to the point that under pure biblical law it is even technically permitted for a convert to marry his biological mother if she also converts. The biblical obligation of honoring one’s parents doesn’t apply to them, though by rabbinical edict some obligations apply and marriage to them is prohibited.”

    Most Rabbis do tell converts that it is praiseworthy to maintain some contact with their biological family, although of course, caution must be used which is why Rabbinical guidance is needed. I am under the impression that the concept of gratitude for your parents for having brought you into this world does apply.

    #1193123
    Joseph
    Participant

    rachriv, you’re converting through an Orthodox rabbi/beis din, correct?

    #1193124
    rachriv
    Member

    Thank you everyone for your feedback. I suspected the entire thing would be prohibited, just not sure how I am going to explain this to my family. My big problem here is that they’re very secular, even in a Christian context, so for them, they might not understand why I can’t just exchange gifts and decorate a tree. Of course, I will not participate in these activities if it is prohibited, I suppose I was just hoping against hope I’d be able to find something permissible.

    Would even going over to my family’s house on Christmas just to spend time with them be forbidden as well? I will, of course, take all these questions to a rabbi IRL but I just thought I’d see if anyone had an opinion on this.

    Also, just out of curiosity, why is Jesus considered a rasha/evil person? Is it because he falsely proclaimed to be the messiah and also divine? Would early Christians (who were initially Jews) therefore be comparable to the Jews who worshipped the golden calf?

    Does anyone know where I can read more about the Orthodox perspective of Jesus?

    Thank you all so much again for the replies!

    #1193125
    benignuman
    Participant

    There is a website called simpletoremember.com that has a lot of articles and classes on the Orthodox perspective on Jesus.

    I would recommend “The Real Messiah” by Rabbi Aryeh Kaplan A”H. It is available for free on that website (or just google the real messiah simple to remember).

    #1193126
    Lilmod Ulelamaid
    Participant

    You might want to try contacting Partners In Torah. They may know of books on the topic. I don’t know of anything offhand, but when I have a chance, I will, bli neder, try to do some research on the topic.

    #1193127
    yehudayona
    Participant

    Jews for Judaism is an excellent anti-missionary organization that might be helpful in regards to explaining the Jewish attitude towards Jesus.

    #1193128
    dovrosenbaum
    Participant

    Yeshu was a wicked person. See Gittin 57A in the Talmud.

    Speak to an Orthodox rabbi about what is permissible for someone in your situation. Perhaps you could be with your family on December 25th and not participate in any religious observances. You need the guidance of a competent rabbi.

    #1193129
    Shopping613 🌠
    Participant

    rachriv- sounds hard. But perhaps you could make new traditions. Such as coming over during Xmas to see your family. You could bring them chanukah cookies and presents and light the menorah if they fall on the same day.

    There are many ways to show them that you love them and enjoy their company. If you shouldn’t exchange gifts than suggest a secret santa or as we call it “secret friend/pal” or give them chanuka gifts.

    You can’t eat the meal or xmas cookies, so make them cookies or buy them with white and blue icing.

    During other Jewish holidays invite family members to come whereever you live and teach them and show them about the wonderful traditions we have. Traditions are just something we do over and over to signify the love we have for the people we do it with every year. Show them your future sukah, arba minim, etc.

    It will be hard, but I think doing some of these things can help soften the blow. Ask your Rav what are some ways you can make traditions and be with your family in honor of FAMILY and not Xmas.

    Wishing you luck.

    #1193130
    WinnieThePooh
    Participant

    In a nutshell, while a lot of what is wrong with believing in Yeshu came about after his death from his followers/early Christians (probably the divinity part of it), in his own lifetime he was clearly a sinner- a false prophet who tried to influence other Jews to deny the Torah. You can call him a teacher, but he wasn’t teaching Torah according to the accepted Mesora (tradition). In fact, the Sanhedrin (main Jewish court) condemned him to death for these sins (although since they were under Roman rule at the time, this was merely symbolic, and they did not have the authority to actually carry out the sentence. The Romans had him crucified because they considered him a rebel).

    #1193131
    Avi K
    Participant

    Joseph, what about hakarat tov, kiddush Hashem and avoiding chillul hashem? In fact, Rav Yaakov Ariel was asked about aveilut by the son of a gentile father and Jewish mother. The father agreed to bring him up as a Jew and even took him to Torah lessons. Rav Ariel ruled that the son should express his sorrow by doing keria and should say Kaddish as his father certainly merited a place in Olam HaBa.

    #1193132
    benignuman
    Participant

    First of all it is not at all clear that the person mentioned in the Gemara that some meforshim understand as a reference to Jesus, is actually talking about the same person that Christians worship. The details of his life as described in the Gemara are widely off that of the Gospels, such that the Yeshu of the Gemara lived nearly 100 years earlier. There is a good chance that they are not the same person and it is a mistake to attribute the activities of one to the other.

    Second of all, the “Sanhedrin” that condemned him to death was not the real Sanhedrin (which had already moved to Yavne 50 years before the destruction of Bais Sheini). It was a Tzeduki Sanhedrin (i.e. made up of apikorsim) that had no halachic legitimacy at all (and probably were just doing what they thought the Romans wanted).

    #1193133
    Joseph
    Participant

    benig, even if we grant your points, everyone agrees that the yushke they worship is a rasha. I assume you’re not saying otherwise.

    Additionally, the Gospels isn’t factually accurate with its stories or relation of history or timeline.

    #1193134
    zahavasdad
    Participant

    OP

    This really isnt the forum to ask this question, You need to speak to a Rabbi about this

    Cutting off your family is one of the worst pieces of advice Ive heard here, you are not in OP’s shoes and you cannot make that determination from an poster on the internet

    #1193135
    huju
    Participant

    One complaint by many Xtians is that many other Xtians celebrate Xmas in a non-religious way. Not our problem, just saying ….

    #1193136
    zahavasdad
    Participant

    Xtian or Xmas is no better than Christian or Christmas

    The X in Xmas is actually the Greek letter Kai which looks like an X which comes from the shortening of our lord and savior. So you are not being frummer by saying Xmas instead of Christmas. If you dont want to mention the holiday, just say December 25. Everyone will get it

    #1193137
    yichusdik
    Participant

    Pretty clear that the Rasha Yeshu in the Gemara lived generations before the one whose death was used by Paul to create a new religion.

    Shiffman, Eisenmann, Golb, and several others can give a Jewish perspective on the historical Yeshu. Shiffman particularly comes from a halachic/rabbinic perspective.

    Historically, it seems that he was possibly from one of the many families claiming descent from David (as every single leader of Zealot and other anti-Roman groups did). (I say claiming, not that he necessarily was, but its possible). It seems from some of the sources (questionable as they may be) which were not redacted by christian scholars leading up to the Council of Nicea that there’s a lot of charismatic but also political efforts in his purported actions. The Romans certainly saw him as a political threat – that’s why they used Crucifixion, not another form of execution. And the non-rabbinic Tzedokim also saw him as a threat.

    It’s hard to see a real historical figure through the shadows and curtains of Pauline christianity. There are some primary sources such as the Nag Hammadi scrolls which didn’t get censored and redacted by the church and have a less obscured perspective.

    In any case he DID arrogate leadership and DID assert a messianic claim (not the only one in the era to do so) without the support of any significant Rabbinic (Perushi) leader. Like the others, he did not fulfil the criteria of a Jewish messianic leader according to the conditions described in the Neviim. This made him a failed mashiach (like Bar Kochba, for example).

    I don’t know of any rabbinic or halachic sources which tell us to honour failed messianic claimants, and to “honour” the manufactured man-god that Paul created for sure not, so I’d say its a pretty clear NO to participating in christmas (Which, until the 4th century, was a pagan holiday called Natalis Invictus, the birth of the invincible sun, anyways until the church decided it would be a good way to bring in pagans by conflating their holiday with Paul’s manufactured deity).

    #1193138
    dovrosenbaum
    Participant

    I have family members that intermarried. They celebrate the 25th. We do get together. We have a bagel breakfast in the morning, we go to eat kosher Chinese food at night, we will go to a movie, etc. I asked my rav, and he said that it is actually a mitzvah for me to do this so that they can still feel as if the religious part of the family loves them and cares for them.To their credit, while the kids aren’t actually Jews al pi halacha, they love when we come. They come to shabbos meals by us and we have sedarim (we go to a communal seder together on the 2nd night), they usually come on CHM sukkos to have a meal in the sukkah together, we have chanukah together one night. Some of the kids, if there’s an interest, may get involved in Judaism and convert later on. We were told by our rav that this is praiseworthy.

    In the case of Jesus, he was wicked because he was a false messiah, and he did horrible things. He cursed people, disrespected his mother, and called a Samaritan woman a dog.

    #1193139
    MDG
    Participant

    “The details of his life as described in the Gemara are widely off that of the Gospels, such that the Yeshu of the Gemara lived nearly 100 years earlier. There is a good chance that they are not the same person and it is a mistake to attribute the activities of one to the other.”

    There are (at least) a couple people that went in to the legend of J. One who lived around 100 BCE (see Sotah 47a) and one who lived around 100 CE (see Horiot 5b IIRC).

    In the Gemara of Sanhedrin, last chapter, a certain non-believer asked a Rabbi about the length of Bilaam’s life. The Rabbi responded 33, and the other guy said “sounds good”. One interpretation is that the other person was asking so that he could use that number for the legend that he was about to create.

    #1193140
    MDG
    Participant

    A friend of mine who converted started by looking around and wondering (kinda like Avraham). She asked, what do German pine trees have to do with a baby being born in the middle east? What’s with the fat dude in the north pole?

    I don’t rachiv can challenge her family like that.

    rachiv,

    Can you come up with some convenient excuse? Sick, school project, work, etc.?

    #1193141
    zahavasdad
    Participant

    As far as as person associated with another religion, We actually know very little about him, We are not even sure he actually existed. The gospels even given conflicting accounts of his life so there is no way to know exactly what he did.

    All we do know for sure is that it began to take off when someone named Saul of tarsus(Aposle Paul) took upon his mantle his story and basically formed the religion

    #1193142
    zahavasdad
    Participant

    MDG

    Most of the December 25 traditions in the US come from German traditions (Germans is actually the #1 ancestry for americans, but it got lost between 2 world wars and the german component has been forgotten).

    #1193143
    yehudayona
    Participant

    dovrosenbaum: “In the case of Jesus, he was wicked because he was a false messiah, and he did horrible things. He cursed people, disrespected his mother, and called a Samaritan woman a dog.”

    Reminds me of a certain president-elect, although as far as I know, he didn’t disrespect his mother.

    #1193144
    Lilmod Ulelamaid
    Participant

    he’s also not a false messiah, which was the main problems of those listed. I think he did other things that were more objectional. I don’t think the main issue we have with him is the fact that he cursed people, although it’s not a very nice thing to do.

    #1193145
    yehudayona
    Participant

    LuL, Trump says he’s the only one who can keep us safe. Sounds like he thinks he’s a savior.

    #1193146
    rachriv
    Member

    What a wonderful forum, thank you all so much for replies! You have all given me so much to think about.

    As of now:

    -Yes, I am converting through an Orthodox beis din.

    -No, I absolutely will not cut off my family under any circumstances.

    -I am going to inquire with a rabbi about my situation to see if there are any permissible activities such as visiting my family on Christmas day, but not participating in any of the actual festivities.

    Thank you all so much again for sharing your advice, encouragement, support and knowledge. Much gratitude. Shavua tov!

    #1193147
    Thinking out loud
    Participant

    Hello. I wish you success on your journey. It is a very noble decision, and by all accounts one that will be difficult, but certainly worth it! I hope you always are surrounded by people who respect the incredible courage it takes to obligate yourself to all that is required of a Jew.

    I highly recommend listening – don’t just read it – to this topic on the simpletoremember website, starting with the audio of Rabbi Lawrence Kelemen. I think it’s called “the real meaning of christmas” or something like that.

    I hope that by the time you actually convert, your dilemma will be expressed differently:

    Not, Is there a way I can celebrate the “non-religious, benign” traditions, but rather,

    What should I do? I don’t want to hurt my family, but I have followed my intellect, and concluded that the Torah is the absolute Truth. How do I handle situations where my belief that there is no Truth other than the Torah, could appear to be sort of, slightly, negotiable? (either overtly, or passively)

    Regardless of what secular people say, there is meaning infused in this day (even though it is a bunch of baloney, historically). It has become a celebration that claims to commemorate the birth of a movement that claims to replace the holy G-d given Torah, with a “New” arrangement. In simple terms that is heresy! It is a rebellion against what G-d said! The thought of participating should become very distasteful to you. Your intent to convert to Torah True Judaism, by definition implies that you will invest meaning into your days, one meaningful hour at a time!

    Part of the challenge that you are taking on, most likely will include upsetting family dynamics. You will have to compensate by developing other occasions to celebrate your relationship with your genetic family (as guided by a G-d fearing Rabbi). Perhaps it will mean making a very big deal about birthdays. As you stated, your decision has caused a lot of pain in your family. That is because you ARE rejecting much of their approach to life, and the underlying belief system in which they function! You are choosing truths that do invalidate theirs. Apparently you understand that following Truth, and coming closer to G-d, overrides the pain that it causes your family (which is highly commendable, as expressed clearly in Megillas Rus – The book of Ruth). Your first obligation is to your own neshama – your Jewish soul.

    Again, I wish you much success along your journey, and may you always be respected for this courageous life-changing choice. When your conversion is considered complete according to halacha, imagine my voice calling out a thunderous MAZEL TOV to you!

    #1193148
    Avi K
    Participant

    Actually the Gemara mentions three separate Yeshus.

    1. A certain Yeshu ben Pandera (Sanhedrin 67a and Avoda Zara 17a) was the son of Mary Magdalene (Miriam Magdalei Neshaya – Miriam the Women’s Hairstylist). He is apparently the source of the nickname Yushka Pundrick. As she was the wife of Pappus ben Yehuda (Gittin 90a) this Yeshu must have lived around the time of the Bar Kochba rebellion (see Berachot 61b) – a century after Pilate.

    2. There was also a Yeshu haNotzri who was a talmid of Yehoshua ben Perachia and fled with him when Yannai was slaughtering the chachamim (Sanhedrin 107b). This was over a century before Pilate.

    As for maintaining good relations with your family you might want to read “After the Return” by Rabbi Mordechai Becher (full disclosure: I did not read the book so I cannot comment on its content).

    3. Yaakov the Heretic quoted Yeshu to Rabbi Eliezer (Avodah Zarah, 16b-17a). As Rabbi Eleizer lived around the time of the Churban this Yeshu could have lived during the time of Pilate assuming that Yaakov the Heretic was already an elderly man when he quoted him.

    Regarding the origin of Xmas you can hear a shiur on the subject by Rabbi Lawrence Kelemen on-line.

    #1193149
    benignuman
    Participant

    Joseph,

    I am not disputing that Yushke (as described in the Gospels) is a rasha. At the very least he went against the Chachomim of the time. However there is a potential charitable view of him in which most of the rishus came from his followers after his death. They believed that Yushke claimed himself to be divine (which would be Avoda Zara) but it isn’t clear that Yushke actually did that. It was also his followers after his death that said a person no longer needed to keep the Torah. Yushke himself said the opposite. In this perspective, Yushke is just another Jew who taught and encouraged the poor and the downtrodden, who was deified after his death by his flock.

    I am not saying that the Gospels are perfectly accurate but the earliest New Testament writings are written only about 20-30 years after Yushke’s death when his original disciples were still living. It doesn’t seem likely that the details could be so off.

    #1193150
    I. M. Shluffin
    Participant

    Twenty-Six Reasons Why Jews Don’t Believe In Jesus, by Asher Norman, 2007. Read the reviews and buy it. Hatzlacha.

    #1193151
    Little Froggie
    Participant

    Thinking Out Loud- Perfect!!! So well written!!

    #1193152
    Joseph
    Participant

    There’s no reason to assume that even his original disciples wrote the truth, in their writings. And the original disciples, anyways, only contributed a tiny portion of the gospels. Additionally, there’s no reason to take the most charitable view of these reshaim.

    #1193153
    zahavasdad
    Participant

    Joseph is now an expert on the Gospels as well

    #1193154
    zahavasdad
    Participant

    As a side note, some are confusing the gospels with the Apostles. The Aposltes were followers and there were 12 of them. The gospels are accounts by 4 of them in a book

    #1193155
    apushatayid
    Participant

    Taking nice sayings and misunderstanding them can be quite problematic. If your parents paid homage once a year to Adolph Hitler Y’S, would you be obligated to do so as well? The same way you have someone guiding you along your path to Orthodox Judaism, it is important you keep in touch with and consult with this person at all times so that you do not take erroneous leaps because you read something on a website.

    As for the holiday celebrated on December 25th. Looking honestly and objectively at the holiday, what part could a believing Jew take part in?

    Now, as to the origins of this holiday, read what some historians have to say.

    #1193156
    rachriv
    Member

    Wow, Thinking out loud, thank you!

    And many thanks to everyone else for your suggestions. 🙂

    #1193157
    nossond
    Member

    Rachiv,

    It is sad to read some of the insensitive replies on this thread.

    You should most definitely keep up a good relationship with your family (except in some unusual situations). They are good people, too.

    JC is a very very complex topic. There are mainstream opinions. There are lesser known opinions. There is also much that was made up, and much that we don’t know.

    When with your family you should seek common ground. For better or worse, early Jewish xtianity promoted the Torah commandments for Jews and the 7 commandments for non-Jews. When the non-Jews took over, they seriously confused many things. But in any case, there is still a lot of common ground. The fact that xtians do not follow most commandments is still in agreement with the Jewish position that they are not commanded to.

    So focus on what we agree on. There is so much. Most of the rest you can say we really don’t know all the facts. Some things you will have to respectfully differ, but with the attitude that this is right for me.

    #1193158
    Torah613Torah
    Participant

    Don’t listen to anything Joseph says. Ask your Rabbi.

    #1193159
    gavra_at_work
    Participant

    Don’t listen to anything Joseph says. Ask your Rabbi.

    Second.

    #1193160
    Little Froggie
    Participant

    Don’t even listen to those that say ask your Rabbi. Ask your Rabbi.

    #1193161
    Lilmod Ulelamaid
    Participant

    just make sure that you have a reliable and good one. There are a lot of Rabbis out there.

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