Kabbalah Christmas

Hessed is the emotion of giving and sharing. When we reach out to a person in need, we are drawing on our Hessed flow. It is the basic cosmic flow with which creation is imbued. Indeed, we can say that the Sefira of Hessed is at the heart of humanity’s desire to make a meaning contribution to the world.

-Rabbi Laibl Wolf
“Hessed: Unlocking the Flow of Love” (pg. 120)
Practical Kabbalah: A Guide to Jewish Wisdom for Everyday Life

Does a kosher Christmas tree really exist? Well, not exactly but a new trend is taking place across the globe of topping off Christmas trees with a Magen David (“star of David”). As oxymoronic as that sounds, thousands have been sold in the US, Canada, the UK, Austria, Ireland, Australia and Mexico.

Not surprisingly, the holiday season can be a difficult time for interfaith families made up of Jews and Christians. The excessive commercial marketing of Christmas often makes Jews feel left out. Enter Morri Chowaki. He is a Jewish man who is married to a woman whose mother is Jewish and father is Greek Orthodox.

-Tobi Janicki
“A Kosher Christmas Tree?”
First Fruits of Zion blog.

No, I haven’t lost my mind (at least I don’t think I have). I know there’s no such thing as a “Kabbalah Christmas,” but I thought it would be a great title for this morning’s meditation, hopefully the title will attract a little attention and maybe even inspire a few folks to stick around and read today’s missive (please feel free to comment, too).

I never thought I’d write about Christmas. My family hasn’t celebrated this holiday in a religious or even a secular manner for well over a decade. But in reading about Hessed and Gevurah (more on that in a minute) in Rabbi Wolf’s book and then reading Toby’s write-up about Christmas at the FFOZ blog, inspiration took hold of me. After all, when we think of Hessed (sometimes spelled, “Chesed”), we think of acts of kindness and charity, which are certainly consistent with the highest ideals of Christmas. But there’s an important flip side.

Strength takes on many forms. Some of us are physically strong, or our strength may lie in our willpower. We may be strong-minded, or we may allow our feelings to flow strongly. Perhaps we have strong convictions. Our faith may be unshakable. The Kabbalah tells us that each of these forms of strength is connected by a common flow – the flow of Gevurah. (pg 132)

Our natural tendency is to be Hessed oriented, but sometimes it is necessary to be highly focused, single-minded, and self-contained to achieve a specific goal. At such times, the balance must weigh heavily in favor of Gevurah rather than Hessed. (pg 135)

Rabbi Wolf speaks of Hessed and Gevurah as being in balance for a spiritually healthy person, with each of these natures coming to the forefront as the circumstances require. Hessed allows us to give to others in need without being overly concerned with our own desires while Gevurah keeps us from giving our rent money to charity. Each, as an apparent opposite of the other, has its place, but neither one should exist without the other. If they are out of balance, we could ignore the needs of our family to give to the poor or horde our very last dollar without considering the starving widow and orphan in the slightest. There are blessings involved in meeting our personal and family responsibilities and in acts of loving kindness to the stranger. Life is a study of duality and balance.

Toby’s article speaks in part about intermarried couples and how Jewish and Christian spouses might try to “manage” Christmas between them. In my household, that isn’t one of our “dualities”, but for many couples it certainly is. Even for someone like me there is a sort of “dual-mindedness” about this time of year. My family and I originally gave up Christmas because of its “pagan” origins. I’ve long since left that particular “boogey man” behind, but I left Christmas behind, too. I don’t find the Messiah and Savior “living” anywhere near December 25th and I see him much more clearly through the “lens” of Sukkot and Pesach (Passover). Yet I self-identify as a Christian, which drives other Christians nuts.

Christian blogger Antwuan Malone asked me:

So, you mentioned “the thought of facing the requirement of celebrating Christmas within church context”. What do you mean?

I’m curious why you don’t celebrate Christmas in any form.

You can click the link I provided above to read my answer, but the wording of his question tells me that even when Christians struggle with managing Christmas in their lives, they still can’t understand why another Christian would choose not to celebrate Christmas in any way at all.

I suppose it’s because I have no emotional ties to Christmas. Although I enjoyed Christmas for the loot I raked in as a child, I don’t recall any warm, fond memories of Christmas time that overcome me with nostalgic bliss. As an adult, I wasn’t a traditional Christian long enough to form any meaningful emotional and spiritual connections before I turned onto the Messianic path. Now that I’m a Christian again (sounds strange, I know), I have nothing to “fall back on” in terms of a nostalgia for Christmas. It just doesn’t “feel” like the birth of Christ or any other high point on my religious calendar. I suppose, put in “Kabbalah” terms, my Hessed is coming up rather dry and my Gevurah is restricting my response.

It’s my Gevurah that also looks at the power surge of emotions and expectations of Christians at this time of year and wonders why I must feel joyful and cheerful and happy. Even the secular world thinks of Christmas as “the most wonderful time of the year.” If I have anything “against” Christmas at all anymore, it’s that expectation that I should feel something and that I must be channeling Ebenezer Scrooge if I don’t.

I’d be a lot more comfortable enjoying my freedom from holiday stress and shopping anxiety if there wasn’t this latent desire in the world around me to drag me into a set of emotions I just can’t relate to.

Usually around this time of year, I’ll hear of some news story where a person loads up the parking meters downtown with quarters so no one will get a parking ticket, or someone will take $500.00 and pay for gas for customers at their local gas station while the money lasts (both of these stories are true, by the way). I can’t complain about Christmas spirit like this except to say I wish Christians would behave with such Hessed the year round.

I’m looking forward to having a few days off toward the end of this month, eating Chinese food (a tradition in my house on December 25th), warming myself in front of the fireplace, sipping a glass of wine, and reading a good book (on Kabbalah, perhaps). The few strings of Christmas that are still tenuously attached to my life will tug at me and I’ll notice the slight pull, but I’ll continue to balance the wants and needs of this time of year in the secular and Christian world, against the feeling of lightness I’ve come to enjoy at not being a enthralled to the heavy demands of the yuletide season.

For many, December 25th is the day when the King of King and the Lord of Lords was born, and that peace on Earth and good will towards others can be celebrated in anticipation of the return of Christ and the peace he will bring. I can’t deny that specialness to those who feel it nor would I ever attempt to speak against the kindness others express toward their fellows during this holiday. I only ask that you don’t expect me to feel what you might be feeling. I do not disdain Christmas for being pagan nor enrapture myself with Carols and Nativity scenes. I look forward only to a quiet sort of peace which is not Christmas for me, but rather the ability to let Christmas pass by me like a momentary breeze on its way to January.

Addendum: For more on this topic, go to Christmas Trees and Panic Attacks and The New Testament is Not in Heaven.

19 thoughts on “Kabbalah Christmas”

  1. Hmmm, very interesting. I should mention that I don’t think Jesus was born on 25th of December. In fact, if I’m honest (and I try to be) I’d say he was born more around September or October. But since we don’t know the day, I’m fine with celebrating the idea of a gift from God (the ultimate gift) on the designated 12/25. For me, better then than ever.

    You are right. It is hard to understand why a Christian would not celebrate the coming of Jesus to us, but I’d fall short of calling it wrong. You’re free to celebrate Him in whatever way you see fit. If almost feels as though Christmas is a form of “sabbath” (a very loose form) for you. I suppose that’s cool.

  2. I appreciate you stopping by and commenting, Antwuan. I think it’s safe to say that I’m not a very “typical” Christian in many of my perspectives. Even casually mixing concepts from Kabbalah in a commentary on Christmas must seem more than strange.

  3. James, I have read with interest your posts in the past and I noticed in the midst of the flurry of responses to Toby’s article yesterday on FFOZ that you were going to quote from it this morning. As usual I find your blog both thoughtful and thought provoking. I thought you might be interested in part of a conversation I had with someone on Facebook this morning.

    My friend’s post: “The very word “Christmas” has been emptied of its meaning, drug through the gutter, and given back to us, minus its power. Some prefer to use the more politically correct terminology at this time of year, like “Happy Holidays,” “Merry Xmas,” or even “Happy Winter Solstice.” But I actually think those things are not as bad as the person who says, “Merry Christmas” with no idea whatsoever of what Christmas really means.

    I think we should cancel the version of Christmas that is filled with hype and endless activity leading to exhaustion, the version that gives little to any thought of Christ. We should cancel Christmas and instead celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ. I still believe in Christmas, but not in the holiday as our culture celebrates it. I believe in the real message of Christmas, which is the birth of our Lord.”

    My reply: “You’re right. Most of what is supposed to be about the birth of our Lord this time of the year is really about commercialism and what we want. Besides who ever heard of a birthday celebration where everyone attending received the gifts instead of the one whose birthday it was?

    Every day, not just one day a year, I celebrate the fact that our Savior came into the world to redeem all mankind and especially that it even included someone like me. Besides His birth really wasn’t at this time of year. But I refuse to be caught up in the commercialism and hype of this season that has nothing to do with our Lord like you said. We used to, like most everyone else. But not anymore.

    Anyway, as we have tried to get our lives more in line with Scripture and how the early believers observed their faith, my wife and I (and a number of our friends) have made some changes to our lives that began about 3 years ago. We didn’t find in Scripture where we were told to celebrate His birth, just his death and resurrection. We couldn’t find where the early believers celebrated His birth.

    So, for us, we decided to begin celebrating the appointed times of the Lord listed in Leviticus 23, the feast days that ALL point to Messiah, and also the one this time of year that the early believers and Jesus Himself celebrated. I am not sharing this to condemn what anyone else chooses to do, but just to let you know: there is an option. A Biblical option. It is amazing the peace we have enjoyed during this season the past few years and how we have actually been able to focus our attention on the only One who is worthy of our praise.”

    When you said in your blog: “I can’t complain about Christmas spirit like this except to say I wish Christians would behave with Hessed like this the year round.” it really struck a chord with me. Somehow this part of the impact of our Lord coming into the world seems to have been overwhelmed by the commercialism and hype of this season. I am realizing from your response (and others) that there are a number of ways to acknowledge our faith that Messiah came into the world. You have inspired me to work harder on fulfilling the words of our Master in the midst of one of the most important (to me personally) passages of Scripture that He spoke: Matthew 5:16 (ESV)
    16 In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.

  4. Thanks for commenting, Mel. I never know who reads my blog unless they actually come by the comments section to introduce themselves. Welcome.

    In reading all of the comments on the FFOZ blog about Christmas, as well as other Christian venues in the blogosphere, it occurs to me that we are all struggling with how best to get together as a body and to bring honor to God. In that, we are anticipating what the Master told us in Matthew 8:11:

    “I say to you that many will come from the east and the west, and will take their places at the feast with Abraham, Isaac and Jacob in the kingdom of heaven.”

    However we choose to gather together and with whatever traditions we choose to identify in this life, those with faith will one day gather together at the “feast of the patriarchs” and celebrate God. In the meantime, we honor our Master by doing his will to feed the hungry, clothe the unclothed, and visit the sick and imprisoned. Those are the gifts worth giving.

  5. Your post struck a real chord with me. I am a pastor who chooses to not celebrate Christmas personally or with my family, but I am obviously still expected to “do Christmas” as part of my service in the church. This will be our third Christmas season in this no-man’s land and I have not found it any easier. Toby’s CD on paganoia were a boon to me last year, but I still struggle with many of these conflicting thoughts and feelings. Thanks for sharing.

  6. Thanks for coming by and sharing with us, Pastor. I can only imagine the struggle you must be experiencing. I can obviously opt out by not attending church but you can’t.

    Blessings.

  7. I posted this on First Fruits of Zions blog and facebook page today. I have warm fuzzy feelings about Christmas, but when I found out about it’s pagan orignis and that Jesus, Yeshua wasn’t born in December I stopped celebrating back in the 90’s. I set out to educate others about it, but didn’t convert anyone and eventually backed down because of my family. If I had this web site back then I’m almost certain I would never have done that. I tried the Messianic movement. That’s not where God has me. Now I have to decide what to do with all these decorations.

    http://www.christmasisalie.com/

    [NOTE: Additional links removed by blog owner.]

  8. I got this sent to me by some Orthodox Jews. I was surprised they could have a sense of humor about it. I used to get upset about it and those feelings were conjured up again today.

    I’m Keeping Kosher for Christmas

  9. Hi Kittii,

    Thanks for commenting and following my blog. No offense, but I removed most of the links from your first comment as I was a little uncomfortable with the title of one and I was concerned that the comments to this blog post would become a “YouTube-fest”. I allowed the YouTube link in your second comment, but would prefer it if you limited your responses here to the topic at hand rather than including so many links. One or two links is fine, but as the blog owner, I reserve the right to make the determination about what I allow to appear here. Since you have your own website, you can post as many links to YouTube videos on your site as you’d like.

    As I mentioned before, there are a huge number of blogs talking about Christmas, both good and bad, on the web right now, and mine is just one more. I hope I’ve made it plain that while my family and I don’t celebrate Christmas, we don’t harbor ill will toward anyone who does celebrate out of their love for Jesus.

    As the YouTube video you posted in your second comment attests, most Jews aren’t particularly offended by Christmas and can even see some humor in the “collision” of Judaism and Christianity at this time of year. Whether anyone celebrates Christmas or not, I hope we can all treat each other with mutual respect, joy, and good cheer in December, and year round.

    Blessings and Good Shabbos.

  10. James, do you actively study Kabbalah? If so who do you study under because I find balancing Christianity with my current Rav trying at times to say the least. I would love to study Kabbalah with a more Christian undertone.

  11. Greetings, Dallas.

    No, I don’t actually study Kabbalah. I’ve read some texts and material online, but strictly from a Jewish perspective. I don’t know of any resources that apply Kabbalah within Christianity, although in centuries past, I understand that Christians have studied Kabbalah. Sorry I can’t help.

  12. You can remove this if you want to after reading it. . I just want to expose you to a new blog I’m on. We’re coming from diferent aspects of the same things I’m out for the Truth. I have lots of questions about a lot of things. I know you have an interfaith marriage and you are trying to find balance. You try to find the postive aspects of the Talmud and I would say you do a really good job at that. Here’s a post on Kabbalah, Freemasonry and Hollywood. Did you know I’m considered a Golem by Talmudic Jews? I asked Marianne about that once and she covered it up when I was on her blog. It’s all explained down below in the comments after the posts. on this blog. I don’t expect you to keep this posted. It’s for your information, because I’m not subscribed to your blog anymore, but I happened to get this sent to me via e-mail. I guess because I commented previously.

  13. Hi Kittii. I commented out the link (it’s still there but no one can see it) since it seems more like a DC comic book superhero site than anything that might be relevant to my blog.

    Yes, you probably subscribed to comments on this specific blog post, and when someone made a new comment recently, you received an email.

    I hope you and yours are doing well. When I get the time, since I saved the link, I’ll have a closer look at the site you mention.

    Blessings.

  14. My comments are wating moderation on this post on her blog. From being on blogs before, it’s just part of the system. She usually allows everything I post on her blog. So give it sometime before you view it. I just found out after my dad passed away in Auugst he was a 33 degree Mason and in high level politics in the fareast. I’m a former Episcopalian and my dad’s priest knows about Masons , but very view Evangelical Christians do. He believes as I do 9/11 was an inside job and the whole Muslim World knows that too. Born again Christians will go so far as to say you are into conspiracy theories. This is a video series by “The Fuel Project’ which is Christian. They have 4 video clips on Masonry and even 4 on the Rothschilds and the Jews. It’s a total of 77 video clips and I like it because they are 10 minutes so it makes it easy to stop and start it. The clips on the Jews are not anti-semetic. He tells it very matter of factly. This has been going on for a long time; secret socieities like Freemasons. It’s part of History even if most Christians don’t know a thing about it.
    Know Your Enemy (Part 40 – Freemasons)

  15. Sorry to do this Kittii, but I’m going to have to remove the YouTube link. I’m really not into the Freemasons and can’t in all good conscience promote anything about them here. I’d also like to avoid conspiracy theories and too much about politics and stick to what we can do on our journey through life help bring us closer to God.

    Please consider this a gentle hint as what not to post in the future. Thanks.

Leave a Reply to Kittii Doherty-Castro Cancel reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.