Kovetz Hilchos Xmas – A Parody for the Rest of Us

Humor has always been a staple for Jewish survival. Through our millenia of tragedies and overall reasons to be sad, humor has been a way to raise the spirits and resolve of everyone around.

This book was a long time in the making. Lots of fake “Hilchos Xmas” have been scattered around the internet, yet nobody has taken the time to organize it into one comprehensive book.

Hilchos Xmas ironically has its roots to R’ Joseph Ber Soloveitchik, “the Rav” in YU terminology. In a lecture on “Halakhah: Its Characteristics and Structure,” where he describes an example of “Halakhah Is Similar to the Scientific Method” versus the mathematical method, he notes,

“For example, if having a Christmas tree would be a mitzvah, the masekhta on it would first take up how many branches it must have, what kind it must be, how it has to stand, etc. The result would be a series of intellectual laws, a mathematized tree, an atomized tree.“ (BLAU, ROBERT (2023) Lectures of Rabbi Dr. Joseph B. Soloveitchik: The Relationship between Halakhah, Aggadah, and Kabbalah. Hakirah: The Flatbush Journal of Jewish Law and Thought , 30.)

When the internet started becoming mainstream in the 1990s, Akiva and Ilene Miller in 1998 produced a handful of “Laws of XMAS,” complete with a letter of Haskama from the Kringler Rav, as well as a Hagada and Zemiros. In 2010, Andy Bloom posted “Hilchos Xmas Eve For Upper West Side Jews by Andy Bloom” under the blog “Frum Follies.” Heshy Fried of frumsatire.net also wrote a post on Hilchos Christmas. Then in December 2012 everything went nuts.

I’m not talking about the creation of “Masechet Chopsticks” by Rick Brody and Rachel Kobrin (though that came out at that time as well). Rabbi Eli Fink, who ran a now-defunct blog finkorswim.com, tweeted on December 19, 2012, “Who thinks a #hilchoschristmas Twitter game would be fun?” That was then followed by, “For example: Santa is patur from Church on Christmas because of osek b’mitzvah patur min hamitzvah. #hilchoschristmas .” Hundreds of made-up Halachos based on present and former Jewish practices were then conjured out of thin air. Technically anyone can make up #hilchoschristmas, but it ran at its height from 2012 to 2014. Then comedian Elon Gold took that material to come up with his bit back in 2014, which for first-time listeners were hilarious. Eli Fink even tweeted on December 14, 2016, “Don’t worry. @elongold consulted with me on #hilchoschristmas. We just need him to tweet them with the hashtag.”

So on one hand, there was a LOT of material to use. On the other hand, while the internet is forever, certain parts can be very well-hidden. Certain blogs have been lost to the public, even when searching archive.org for an older version. Certain Twitter accounts have since been removed, and its algorithm constantly changes. Gathering hundreds of tweets on #hilchoschristmas was incredible time consuming itself, especially when certain ones were preserved on archived blog posts and videos on #hilchoschristmas. Then there was formatting the tweets, factoring in re-tweets and re-posts, as well as creating categories for these posts. These needed to be done independently of AI. AI was helpful though in generating accompanying images as well as cleaning the categorized tweets into logical sentences as well as generating some images through DALL-E, which made some ridiculous sounding tweets and laws a visual reality.

The author of this work has chosen to remain anonymous for two primary reasons: a) the content is a collective effort, representing the original ideas of many contributors, and b) there is a concern that the humorous nature of the content might inadvertently offend some readers, potentially impacting the author’s reputation. In the process of formatting, certain tweets derived from #hilchoschristmas were excluded if deemed in poor taste. As a result, Halachos derived from tweets are not individually attributed due to significant editing. These, along with the original Hilchos Xmas from 1998, have been adapted to be concise, relevant, and resemble authentic Halachos in Yeshivish language, maintaining a consistent flavor (taam). Additionally, the term “Christmas” has been replaced with “Xmas” wherever feasible. All verbatim excerpts are appropriately credited. Official titles have been omitted in favor of using first and last names. To simplify the presentation, dialogues between various users have been creatively reimagined as exchanges between two imaginary Rabbinic characters: Reb Rudolph and Frosty the Fester Rebbe.

Lastly, realize that this entire piece is done tongue-in-cheek. If you feel you may be offended, seriously, DO NOT read this book. To quote Akiva and Ilene Miller (http://linuxmafia.com/~rick/xmas.html),

“Please note: We hope that our readers understand that as a religious holiday, [Xmas] is totally incompatible with Judaism, and the very thought of it being a Jewish holiday is ludicrous. Therefore, we have avoided all references to the religious aspects of the holiday, and tried to focus only on those aspects which have pervaded American culture. Our intention has been to provide a good-natured, humorous parody, to use those cultural aspects of [Xmas] to illustrate some of the methodology and details of Jewish law. It is a very fine line we are treading, but we hope that we have insulted neither the Torah, nor our Christian friends.”

Seriously, not everyone shares the same sense of humor, and that’s also all right.

~ The Chelmisher Rav