Friday, January 06, 2006

Nittel Nacht

Tonight is Nittel.

Nittel is the night of Christmas according to the Eastern Orthodox Churches, January 6th, and has traditionally been a night that has been marked by Jews through the popular custom of Not Learning. This has mistakenly been thought of as a Chassidic custom but in truth it precedes Chassidism.

There are many kabbalistic reasons given that have to do with the winter solstice and the birth of Jesus, that give this night a dark element.

I want to focus on the practical reason given. It was simply too dangerous for Jews to be out on Christmas, therefore public learning was abolished. Therefore I'd like to reflect on how truly lucky we are in America. We cannot understand the level of fear in those days. My Grandparent tell me stories of how after the Priest would give his Midnight had to to barricade your doors, as the masses would be out in a frenzy seeking revenge from the Jews.

If you ever want to feel a small measure of how lucky we are...jump onto a flight to any Central/Eastern European city in full Jewish garb. Walk down the main streets of Berlin, Warsaw, Vilna in your hat and jacket...see how they the contempt on the faces. I've been there and felt it.

Just last week my wife was complaining at how she can't take all the noise our neighbors make, playing music shabbos afternoon..etc. All I could think was..I'll take this over a pogrom ..any day.

Now I have to go find something to read tonight :-)