This year, Halloween falls on Shabbat and trick-or-treaters — even Jewish ones — will be knocking on doors Friday evening.
LOS ANGELES — This year, Halloween falls on Shabbat and trick-or-treaters — even Jewish ones — will be knocking on doors Friday evening.
After reading that on Oct. 31, Urban Adama, a Jewish-oriented educational farm and community center in Berkeley, Calif., would be holding a “Challahween Kabbalat Shabbat,” I wondered: Should I have a Halloween Shabbat dinner as well?
Yes, I know that Halloween has murky pagan and Christian origins. But the Halloween costume, decoration and candy industry has morphed so far beyond its origins that I wondered what I could pull from that bubbling commercial cauldron and adopt to season my Shabbat.
What about trying pumpkin spice challah? I didn’t have to cast a spell to find a recipe online.
But what to wear, especially since I would be greeting the neighborhood children as they came calling?
For ideas, I hit a neighborhood costume warehouse, Halloween City.
I was surprised by the number of items that, with a little imagination, suggested ways to remember Shabbat on Halloween — and even how to keep it.
Searching for something overtly Jewish, I was disappointed at first, only finding costumes more suited to Catholic tastes. One could dress up as a Blessed Mother, priest and friar, but not a rabbi.
On a nearby rack, though, when I found a Doctor Who costume — a red fez and bow tie — I knew I was in the right place. Since, according to Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel, “the meaning of the Sabbath is to celebrate time rather than space,” who would be better to have at my Halloween Shabbat dinner than a Time Lord?
A “Tequila Poppin’ Dude” costume came with two shoulder bandoliers with shot glass-holding loops. Improvising, I figured on Shabbat I could put on the bandoliers and a kipah and be a poppin’ dude, too, only with slivovitz instead of mescal in my arsenal.
On the top of the rack, I found a blue-and-gold Egyptian pharaoh’s headdress.
“That will work,” I thought, trying it on, remembering that in the Shabbat Kiddush are the words, “recall the Exodus from Egypt.”
Walking by an entire area of black and gray fake headstones, I came to an area that seemed more heavenly.
In recent years, angel wings have become a Halloween costume staple, and the warehouse had an entire display in every shape and color. To begin every Shabbat, my family always sings “Shalom Aleichem,” wishing peace to the “attending angels.” Would they be offended if I wore a pair of wings to dinner?
In the next aisle over, I found myself amid costumes for girls and women. Was there something here that would invoke the image of Shabbat Hamalka, the Sabbath Queen, whom we greet with song on Shabbat evening?
There were costumes for a woodland fairy, a gothic temptress and a “divine goddess” that included a blonde wig and hair jewelry, but nothing close to what I imagined to be the Sabbath Queen.
Then I realized: With a Sabbath Queen, angels who visit on our day of rest and celebrations of time rather than space, we didn’t really need any help from Halloween to conceptualize the fantastic.
On Halloween, I could set the table with orange plates on a black tablecloth and wear a pharaoh’s headdress. But on that Shabbat evening, as we rise before dinner to face the door and sing the last verse of L’cha Dodi, “Come my beloved,” even if the doorbell rings, do we really need all that stuff to imagine who might appear at our threshold?