The Secret Jewish History of The Day of the Dead

Because we are all created in HaShem’s image, and created at the birth of the stars, the energy of our ancestors follow in just like at Day of the Dead. Neil Goldstein Glick in a Halloween-inspired post

NeilGoldsteinGlick180x200Like Jerusalem, Athens and Rome, Mexico City is one of the great cities of the world. It is layer upon layer of different cultures. There are the majestic and inspiring layers of the Teotihuacan and Toltec peoples of 2800 and 1000 years ago respectively; the amazing ruins of Tenochtitlan of the Mexica (pronounced Meh-shi-ka) or as they are known outside of Mexico, the Aztecs, from 500-700 years ago. There are the Spanish Colonial influences throughout the city. All of this is surrounded by the modern metropolis of the Distrito Federal — Mexico City.

On a visit to Mexico City, in late October, there were preparations and decorations for the annual rites of Dia de los Muertos – the Day of the Dead. From late October through early November, Mexicans of all walks of life celebrate Dia de los Muertos. This tradition of honoring the dead predates the Spanish Catholic conquering of Mexico in 1521. It was born from the primeval energies of humans’ wonder and fears surrounding death and the afterlife.

Families visit cemeteries where they have picnics to comfort their immediate families and the spirits of those that passed away. When they leave, families sprinkle marigold petals from the grave to their homes to show the spirits how to make their annual visit.

Most homes and businesses set up an ofrenda, an altar or shrine. The ofrenda has pictures of relatives that died, flowers, colorful decorations, and foods the deceased would want to eat. There is almost always some tequila.

There is a familiar comfort in this ancient tradition connecting the departed with the living.

In many Jewish homes, we have a similar tradition, yet often the connection is not made.

The Torah clearly states we are created in the image of HaShem/G-d. “And God created man in His image; in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them.”

Not everyone, though, believes in HaShem/G-d. Some believe in the ‘Big Bang.’ The theories are not incongruent. They are merely defined differently.

In Jewish liturgy, reference is made to the Shekhina. The spirit of G-d that permeates the earth, atmosphere and universe. The Shekhina is a holy spirit manifestation of HaShem with which Jews can connect to the eternal through performing mitzvot.

Continue reading in The Forward