Jewish Halloween

Candy on Simhat Torah

Candy is a tricky matter for synagogues on Simhat Torah, the holiday celebrating the Torah and its yearly reading cycle. On this evening, the Torah scrolls are carried around the synagogue in festive processions and worshippers sing, dance, and throw sweets for children to collect.

In small synagogues, this procedure is fairly straightforward. But large synagogues can have issues with Milka-bars and Twixes flying through the air. To be fair, not many adults enjoy a barrage of caramels raining down on their heads, no matter the brand, no matter the degree of religious devotion. And to be very fair, bonbons thrown from synagogue balconies can be hazardous for the Torah scrolls, too.

As a result, many synagogues develop some sort of candy restriction. The worst one I can remember was in pre-immigration Berlin of the 1980s, when the synagogue at Pestalozzistraße banned candy-throwing altogether and in its place made the kids line up for a brown bag containing three treats and a sandwich. With that recollection in mind, I found myself last Monday momentarily in favor of the synagogue’s current policy: The children parade around the room with pails and bags, collecting sweets from the adults they passed. They are happy and civil, the adults are happy and civil, and no one gets injured.

Then I changed my mind, prompted by a little girl of five. Eyeing a bag of lollipops, she – unwittingly – pointed me to a drawback of fusion culture, when Hanukkah merges with Christmas and Kwanzaa, and the celebration of the Holy Scripture apparently with the festival of the dead. “Trick or treat?” she said, and then a quick “oops!”

Naomi Lubrich, Media

Citation recommendation:

Naomi Lubrich (2012), Jewish Halloween. Candy on Simhat Torah.

Holidays: Old Rituals, New Customs (19)

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