Xmas in Bethlehem
Xmas in BethlehemFlash 90

Q. 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.


A. This Friday is the fast day of 10 Tevet. Isn’t it unusual to fast on a Friday?

Q. First, some background to the day.

It is one of four fasts enumerated in Zech. 8:19: “The fast of the 4th month (17 Tammuz), the fast of the 5th (9 Av), the fast of the 7th (3 Tishri) and the fast of the 10th (10 Tevet)”.

All these dates are associated with the destruction of the Temple. 10 Tevet marks the beginning of the siege of Jerusalem: “In the 10th month, on the 10th day of the month… this very same day the King of Babylon has invested Jerusalem” (Ezek. 24:1-2).

Because Ezekiel says “this very same day”, the fast of 10 Tevet has to take place irrespective of it sometimes being Erev Shabbat.

Zechariah speaks (verse 19) of a time when the four historical fasts “shall be to the House of Judah joy and gladness, and festival seasons”.

A Talmudic debate (RH 18b) examines the conditions under which the fasts can be dispensed with and become festivals. The accepted ruling is that the fasts are still obligatory (Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chayim 549:1), not only to commemorate past events but to arouse us to repentance (Mishnah B’ruch).

With the coming of the Messiah, Zechariah’s prophecy will be realised and the four fasts will become days of rejoicing.

Of the four fasts, only one – Tishah B’Av – is, like Yom Kippur, from sunset one day to nightfall the next; the others begin at day break.