Let's face it. More Jewish families with children observe Halloween than Purim, and Halloween is more anticipated and treasured than even the Sabbath.
Instead of fighting an uphill battle to convince your children to abandon the celebration, let's try to co-opt it.
Halloween falls on a Saturday night this year. Why not introduce havdallah, the mystical ceremony ending Shabbat that involves a flickering flame, sweet spices and a glass of wine? So mark the end of sacred time — and then let your children trick-or-treat.
By saying goodbye to Shabbat, we acknowledge that we live in a world where everything else is not yet holy. How we approach that which is unsacred, such as Halloween, teaches our children about living Jewishly in a non-Jewish world.
As life-affirming as Judaism is, don't forget that we too have a darker side to our folklore and legends. Here are some costume ideas that will scare away any notion that Judaism is free of pagan influence:
*Angel of Death. This character appears in the Passover story during the 10th and final plague against the Egyptians. According to Jewish lore, the Angel of Death is covered with eyes, so that those who see him will gasp in fear. As their mouths open in terror, the intended victim swallows a drop of poison from the Malach Hamavet's sword. Kabbalah calls the creature the Angel Samael.
*Agrat Bat Mahalt. She is the queen of Jewish demons and is a concubine of Samael. She is said to be the granddaughter of the biblical Ishmael and comes out on Tuesday and Friday nights.
*Lilith. According to Jewish folklore, she is the first wife of Adam in the Garden of Eden. Lilith demands full equality. When she is denied it, she leaves. Jewish legend has vilified her as the demon queen of the night who kills newborns and mothers. She is a seductive figure with long hair who can fly and seduce men in their sleep.
*Golem. During the Middle Ages in Prague, a kabbalistic master fashions a large creature of clay to protect the Jews from pogroms. The four Hebrew letters with the name of God from the Torah are engraved into his forehead. Other Jewish masters are said to have created golems as servants of extraordinary strength but no ability to think independently or to speak. Think of the golem as a Jewish Frankenstein.
*Dybbuk. This evil spirit seeks vulnerable souls to displace so that it can occupy a person's body. The dybbuk speaks with a new voice in its new body and can only be expelled by exorcism. It is said to leave through the body's pinky toe.
*Endor. In chapter 28 of the Book of Samuel I, the prophet Samuel is raised from the dead by the Witch of Endor at the request of King Saul, who seeks his advice prior to his final battle. In the TV series "Bewitched," Samantha's mother was named Endora for the biblical witch.
*Asmodeus. This mischievous demon king hides the Shamir worm from King Solomon to prevent him from building the first Temple in Jerusalem. (The worm would split open rocks so they could be formed into bricks to build the Temple. At the time Solomon wasn't allowed to use metal to build the Temple because he had been a man of war.)
King Solomon tricks Asmodeus by filling his well with wine, getting the demon drunk and acquiring his book of magic. Asmodeus, however, manages to exile the king and have his way with Solomon's 1,000 wives. Solomon, after wandering as a beggar, finally returns to the throne and banishes the demon.
Let the superheroes and cartoon characters beware.