Rabbi Dr. Raymond AppleRabbi Dr Raymond Apple AO RFD is Emeritus Rabbi of the Great Synagogue, Sydney. He is now retired and lives in Jerusalem, where he publishes OzTorah, a weekly email list and website with Torah insights from an Australian perspective.
Q. A Sydney mosque has issued a “fatwa” against Muslims having anything to do with Xmas, including forbidding them from offering Xmas greetings to Christians. Would Judaism have any issue with Jews saying “Merry Xmas” to non-Jewish acquaintances?
A. Some years ago we were leaving a Canberra meeting of the Religious Advisory Committee to the Services when the Anglican Bishop to the Australian Defence Force said to me, “Rabbi, can I wish you a Merry Xmas?”
I replied, “Not really, because Xmas is a Christian celebration and not a Jewish one – but I can certainly wish you and yours a Merry Xmas, and I do so as one good friend to another!”
There is commercial hype about Xmas and Easter, and Jews should not be encouraging it (nor should anyone else), because both festivals are essentially religious and not secular occasions.
Jews should not be setting up Xmas trees or eating Easter eggs (nor should anyone else), but it is good and proper to wish Christians a heartfelt religious celebration – both because Christians should be practising Christianity, and because every nation needs more spirituality… and also because it’s the mark of a true democracy when religions all have the right to practise their faith and recognise the other’s religious conscience and commitment.
My friend the bishop went away from our Canberra encounter feeling good, and though it’s not appropriate for anyone to offer me a Xmas greeting, I will continue to hold out the hand of friendship and offer a sincere greeting to my Christian friends.