How Should/Do Jews Celebrate Christmas?

November 9th: Toldot
Rabbi David E. Ostrich

We have been invited to hold an American Red Cross Blood Drive on December 24th, and it offers us a mitzvah possibility that brings together some of today’s most pressing concerns.

 (1)   Just a few weeks ago, we were inspired by the message of Rabbi Jonah Pesner of the Religious Action Center of the Reform Movement. He urged us to be activists in the work of Tikkun Olam, the repair of the world. Sometimes, Tikkun Olam involves social justice work, and sometimes it involves less controversial but equally important acts of healing. A Blood Drive is absolutely necessary for those in need of transfusions, and donating is a fairly quick and easy way to contribute something of substance.

(2)   The tragedy at Tree of Life Congregation in Pittsburgh has also inspired many of us to find ways to stand up for life and to work together for the moral values that all good people share. What better way than to literally share our life-blood with random strangers—fellow children of God who are in desperate need.

(3)   As we approach Kristallnacht, November 9th, an anniversary of great destruction and a harbinger of the even greater destruction that engulfed Europe and so many of us, we should resolve to respond to darkness with light, to respond to terror with love, and to respond to the absence of humanity with the quintessential commodity of human life.

(4)   As we reflect upon the importance of neighborly respect and support—a quality so evident in the non-Jewish response to the Pittsburgh atrocity, we should resolve to do our part as members of the general community. There is a modern Jewish tradition of helping our Christian friends and neighbors as they celebrate their yontif—taking shifts for them, volunteering at hospitals for them, etc. Christians are busy at Christmastime, but the need for blood is continuing. Let us take this opportunity at this time of the year to carry the responsibility for blood donations when our Christian friends are involved in their holidays.

(5)   And, there is even a connection we can draw from our weekly Torah portion. In the story of Jacob and Esau, in Genesis 25.29, we read: “Once when Jacob was cooking a stew, Esau came in from the open, famished. And Esau said to Jacob, ‘Give me some of that red stuff to gulp down, for I am famished…at the point of death!” In Esau’s case, lentil stew worked. But, in many emergency medical situations, more than nutrition is necessary. The red stuff we can give can make the difference in people’s lives.

 We are being offered a mitzvah of the first order, and I am hoping we can generate interest and support. Here is what we need.

(a)  We need two or three volunteers to help with the blood drive that day, Monday December 24th, from about 9:00 AM until 2:00 PM. The duties will include helping with registration, serving snacks, etc.

(b)   We need a few dozen people to come and give blood. Please let me know (by e-mail) if you’ll be in town on the 24th and can commit to giving blood that day.

 To sweeten the pot AND to recognize the official ways that Jews celebrate Christmas, the Red Cross people are working on Chinese food for snacks AND gift cards for the movies! What more could you ask for?

Please be in touch so we let the Red Cross know that they can depend on us.