Sunday, December 28, 2008

 

Nitel Night

Via He Lives I found this Haaretz article on Nitel Night-- Christmas Eve for the Hasidim, who have all kinds of commands and superstitions about it.
On Christmas Eve, known in Jewish circles as Nitel Night, the klipot (shells) are in total control. The klipot are parasitical evil forces that attach themselves to the forces of good. According to kabbala (Jewish mysticism), on the night on which "that man" - a Jewish euphemism for Jesus - was born, not even a trace of holiness is present and the klipot exploit every act of holiness for their own purposes. For this reason, Nitel Night, from nightfall to midnight, is one of the few occasions when Hasidim refrain from Torah study. ... The Knesset correspondent of the ultra-Orthodox newspaper Hamodia, Zvi Rosen, relates that celebrated Hasidic admorim (sect leaders) would cut a year's supply of toilet paper for Sabbath use (to avoid tearing toilet paper on Sabbath) on this night. Actually, this disrespectful act has profound kabbalistic significance, because kabbalistic literature extensively discusses Christianity as waste material excreted from the body of the Jewish people. Today, precut toilet paper for Sabbath use is available on the market; thus, the custom's relevance has diminished. ... ...an ultra-Orthodox rabbi was once asked to eulogize Theodor Herzl, founder of modern Zionism and a secular Jew. After a few moments, he came up with three positive traits: Herzl had never spoken while putting on his phylacteries, had never thought about Torah matters in unclean places and had never studied Torah on Nitel. ... In contrast, Lithuanian and Sephardic ultra-Orthodox Jews do not observe Nitel at all. "The Hasidim will look for any excuse not to study Torah," quipped one Lithuanian Jewish cynic.

I found hasidic discussion forum threads on Nitel Night here and here. They aren't all that interesting, but they show that the customs are alive.

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