Christmas and A Jewish Yogi!

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Wow, that is a strange title, but I think it is appropriate for this time of year. Being 100% Jewish and raising my family Jewish does not mean that I cannot enjoy and cherish the spirit of Christmas. We usually spend Christmas Eve with a really good family friend who is like family, in fact she has been key in raising my children as she takes care of them when I am out working. Not only do we participate in the holiday, we are tolerant and respect all rituals no mater how religious they are. On the flip side my friend attends each and every Passover Seder and participates in that. So I pose the question, what is wrong with tolerance, understanding and respect?
The second of Pantajali’s yoga sutras is Niyama (The five “observances”): Shaucha(purity), Santosha(contentment), Tapas (austerity), Svadhyaya (study of the Vedic scriptures to know about God and the soul), and Ishvara-Pranidhana (surrender to God). Applying the principles of purity, contentment, austerity, and the understanding of a god or in my view source of energy to a Jewish yogi runner during Christmas is not that far out of whack.
Just think how much better and peaceful the world would be if people were more tolerant of each other and were to accept or even participate in others’ customs or beliefs and traditions. I have noticed a lot this holiday season regarding simple tolerance issues. While walking at the mall yesterday, I overheard a mom telling her son that “we need to look away because we don’t believe in Santa – and that is not part of who we are.” Upon having heard that, I sat down with my daughter at Macy’s and wrote a letter to Santa. I explained to her that while this is not part of our personal tradition, for every letter placed in the box Macy’s makes a donation to the make a wish foundation. If anyone thinks that what I did was wrong, let me know. My daughter in writing to Santa donated money to a child in need, an act of tzedakah or charity. This not only falls under Niyama, it is one of the 613 mitzvot, or commandments (deeds) that Jewish people must do. Saying that tolerance leads to purity, contentment, austerity, and surrender to an energy that powers us is why I participate in Christmas celebrations. Not because I personally believe in principles of Christianity but because respecting and cherishing those who do, makes for a better and more peaceful world.
I remember growing up, in Ecuador, that two ladies who were live in Nannies, Catholic and having no exposure to any other tradition, would light candles every Friday night. Their only explanation was that their mothers and grandmothers always lit two candles on Friday night. Lighting candles on Friday night is a Jewish tradition that initiates the sabbath. It became apparent that these ladies were descendants of Jews from Spain who were practicing Judaism in hiding to avoid the consequences of the inquisition. If people were more tolerant of each other’s traditions, the inquisition and people having to hide acts of spirituality would not need to happen.
My friend called me today to ask if it would be offensive if a person dressed as Santa would come to her Christmas Eve gathering. While I laughed and said, of course it is not offensive,and at first pondering why it would even occur to her that I could be offended, it occurred to me that that, sadly, santa would be offensive to some. Come on people, we are all human – whether we believe in the new testament, only the Old Testament, the yoga sutras, Bhudda, Mohamed, Nefertiti or whomever, we are all powered by the same source of energy. When we all start respecting each other and become tolerant of one an other the world will become a better place.
So as a Jew, a yogi, and a Human, Christmas is one more opportunity to share other’s spirituality and connect with friends on a deeper and more meaningful level. Merry Christmas from a Jewish lawyer who practices yoga, runs marathons and respects fellow humans!

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2 responses »

  1. I love this. I’m an atheist, actually, but I totally celebrate the spirit of Christmas. I think we can all join in tidings of joy, peace, celebration, and thankfulness! Merry Christmas, Happy (Belated) Hanukkah, and all around Happy Wishes to you!

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