Conversation with R' Feibush Heller, z"l
New edition of Zeek, two flavors


I used to love my black satin cat mask. It was quilted, sleek to the touch. It had almond-shaped eyeholes and stiff silver whiskers. I wore it with a black leotard and tights and a tie-on satin tail. I was wearing it the year my parents took me to meet the witch.

She wasn't a real witch, of course. I don't think my parents knew any Wiccans or Pagans, then or now. No; this was a friend of theirs, who dressed up every year to entertain kids like me. But I didn't know that. My father assured me she was "real," and -- filled with glee -- I believed him.

I remember faux fog and spooky cobwebs on her lawn. She wore all black and a tall pointy hat, like the witch in the Wizard of Oz. I asked her what it was like to be a witch, and she answered me according to children's logic. Maybe that's why I can't remember her answer anymore.

For years after that I felt a frisson every time we drove past her house, even once I knew she was really just a lady in a witch costume. I felt sophisticated and worldly because I had sat on her couch drinking apple juice and eating candy corn. The borders between real and make-believe were different then.

In recent years I've come to appreciate the symbolism of Samhain, the overlap between Samhain and Dia de los Muertos, and how the notion of connecting with those beyond the veil is paralleled in some of the Jewish observances of the lunar month of Heshvan.

Halloween is kind of a non-event for me these days. I'm spending the evening quietly at home. No costumery; no jack-o-lanterns; no trick-or-treaters, because we live at the top of a long dark hill on a short dark street in a neighborhood with no kids. I'm cooking myself supper (salmon in sake and soy, with spinach and brown rice), listening to the wind in the trees -- having a contemplative Halloween, I suppose. That's fine by me.

Still, I wonder how many of us crave the kind of Halloween I remember from when I was a kid: a night to allow ourselves to live in imagination, to enjoy the way it feels to suspend our disbelief.

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