Q. New Year’s eve is Friday night. Can I join in the celebration?
Candles, Kiddush, Motzi, a Shabbat meal, z’mirot, bensching… the mood is calm, the pace relaxed, the soul refreshed – nothing can compare with the experience. Not even the new year’s hype justifies sacrificing Shabbat. (There is even an argument for never celebrating the civil new year at all, even when it falls on a weekday.)
One of the ways in which traditional Judaism was undermined at the time of the hellenisation of the Holy Land was that even the young kohanim were running to witness the Greek sporting competitions instead of performing their priestly duties in the Temple. They even wore the Greek athlete’s hat.
Presumably people said in those days what they are saying now, that it’s all a bit of fun, and it’s hard enough to be Jewish, so what’s wrong with a bit of harmless nonsense?
A bit of nonsense is indeed no problem… so long as it does not compromise the Jewish way of life: and following the crowds on 31 December is a compromise even if you have davened and made Kiddush and bensched first. It says: Shabbat can be pushed aside for the sake of a piece of paganism, with plenty of drunkenness and some immorality too.
If others want to act like m’shugga’im, we can’t stop them. But it’s not for Jews. We need to be mityahadim, not mit’yav’nim – Jews who act like Jews and not like pagan hedonists.