It has been said that while reading scripture's is important for spiritual maturity, too much study rots the brain. What that means is that the acedemic seeker may learn so much in his or her studies that apostasy manifests. Rabbi and Reverend alike has warned that too much knowledge is not a good thing. I've posted about this before. I guess I could wear that lable. I no longer believe what the priests say. I've never listened to what the man says... well... not with any great success. But I still believe in the Divine Hand of God and the Breath of Heaven.
Studying Judiasm via Kabbalah has made the Christian education vibrant, living and in some instances more real than the uninformed readings of my youth. I think this is due mostly to the midrashic traditions that have been upheld for eons. And I am left with a burning question that no one alive can answer: why should the two religions have ever been seperate?
Why do I ask?
Because I bought my only new Christmas ornament of the year: a blown glass menorah ornament. Now, dear reader, your reaction is about what I imagined it would be. Now my brother's reaction would be similar. My christian friends would protest the menorah based on the fact that they believe that no Jew deserves the scriptural teachings of Christ because they rejected him. Wrong on many levels. First, Paul was a Jewish Roman convert so by that logic he should be invalidated. But as he is exalted as the Church's "first and best" interpretter of Christ's teaching, then no one should hold such a low opinion of anyone. On other levels I shall post later. My Jewish friends would react badly as well, since many Jews regard Christ as a false prophet who tried to lead jews into some abominated form of their religion. A menorah on a Christmas Tree would have to be the highest form of sacrelige.
My first reaction to the ornament was "OMFG No Way!" And I squeed as I took the second to the last one down. Immediately Seth's procclamation of Chrismukkah zipped through my memory banks. I cherished the ornament all the way through the store, up to the register and all the way home. That is when I realized that I wouldn't be putting up a tree this year. My second reaction to the ornament was that if I were to put this on a tree EVERYONE would be pissed because they just don't understand.
There is absolutely nothing Christian about a Christmas tree or any of the yuletide traditions that we hold. According the the book "Babylonian Mystery Religion", the roman catholic church who brought us the first bible translations, outlined the proper and acceptable garnishments on the holiday season in the 3rd century. Yes, the infamous Council of Nice. Roma desired to conquer more lands through control of religion since its military prowess had been diminished by political insanity. And, she has done a mighty fine job over the centuries. In order to make converts of the pagans, wiley little thorns in the side of roman governors everywhere, they simply assimilated pagan practices.
First they changed the birthday of Christ to coincide with an ancient babylonian legend of Tammuz and the Queen of Heaven. Mary the Queen gives birth to Christ, Tammuz. Birth records that archeaologists have found indicate that Christ was born July 29 or 30. One of the reasons the Jewish and Secular calendars don't mesh is to hide this fact. The incarnations of calendars further obscure this information. But, silly Holy Roman Empire, the church kept recods of all its alterations in something called the Catholic Encyclopedia kept in the Vatican's vault. Then, to make the converts comfortable in the church for mass, Roma allowed them to decorate with the greenery of their rituals. The glass ornaments and knick knacks that we know now are northern European contributions to the obscurring of pagan and christian rites. Thirdly, the names of the three kings, unnamed in all text but the King James version of the Christian Bible, have demon names attributed to them. Melchior, Balthazar and damn, I forgot the other guy's name. I'll look it up later. It's really quite a good scheme.
And it is so innocuous it works. But here's the kicker. I'm guessing that a lot of Jews recognized this assimilation for what it was. One of the Queen of Heaven's names is Astarte, Ishtar, but more commonly called Ashteroth, in the Jewish scripture. Moses and the boys were charged with tearing down her alters whenever they found them on their journey and to destroy every vistage of her presence in the promised land. So for the Catholic church to align itself with her, even if on the surface it seemed a thin veil over their greed, (lets not forget that with the establishment of the Holy Roman Empire, Rome was entitled to the tithes that individual governments collected since the church and state were one and the same- nice idea there Ceasar) would have to seem like the beginning of the end to every Jew during the 3rd century. And this would be one of the reasons that we aren't taught Judiasm... it would punch too many irreparable holes in the teachings.
So here's the thing Christmas is a pagan holiday. The purpose of Yule is to remind us that the seasonal darkness is necesary, that this is the time of the year where growth really occurs. Arborists will tell you that it takes the entire winter time season for the tree to generate the growing power necessary to make the buds manifest and grow their leaves and flowers in the Sring. The world looks dead on the outside, but there is light and heat and growth occurring every one of those dark days. And so it is true for us humans. Winter is dark and cold, almost forcing us into our homes and shutting us in so that we can find our reserves and a wellspring of strength inside of us. In the Summer with so many hours of sunlight we are so busy that time for reflection hardly seems possible and almost always seems unnecessary. In Winter we have time to go deep within ourselves to find our Fortitude. It is part of a cycle than humans need. The pagan traditions understood this and celebrated it. Christmas is off the Solstice mark by a few days. I am not sure how that happened... I think it was as a result of the Julian calendar and the measuring from the Crucifixion. But Channukah and Solstice begin the same day almost every year. Both are festivals of the light.
I'm not saying that Jews are pagans. What I am saying is that in both of those traditions, they paid close attention to G'd. The Jews have had a direct line to Heaven since time immemorial. The Pagans listen to the rythmns of nature, G'd in her purest form (they'd argue). Solstice is when the days begin to grow longer, the life that has been welling deep within is ready to Spring forward. And at Channukah, we remember that we are never alone and miracles abound.
as I reflect on these yuletide idosyncracies, I realize that the Jews and the Pagans have put up consistant resistance to Roma and her minions. These people with the festival of lights stand against the Roman perversions. Jews have done so outright and with great peril to themselves while the pagans have done so subversively from within the very system that Roma established.
I think that is the best non personal reason to put a menorah on my tree.
Yes, this is a simplistic overview.... but this is just a blog after all. Damn it Shayne, I'm a geek not a PhD candidate.