REBUILD

For those of us who had the appetite to continue on with the Seder after the crumbs of the Afikomen were brushed away last Friday and Saturday night, one of the latter passages of the Haggadah – the third last passage, just prior to “Who Knows One” – ought to have taken on greater significance and meaning this year. “Adir Hu”, an eight-stanza acrostic with each stanza focusing on HaShem rebuilding His house, the holy Temple in Jerusalem, might well have rung a bell with so many of us, with the fire of Notre Dame in Paris still so very fresh in our minds. If there is any one non-Catholic group that can identify with what took place in France last week, in all likelihood, it is we Jews. Our collective memory is still haunted by the flames bringing down the Beit HaMikdash or Holy Temple in Jerusalem in the year 70, when the land of Israel was under Roman rule.  Stark differences however, remain with what took place with our Beit HaMikdash in Jerusalem and the Cathedral of Notre Dame in Paris.

Despite its splendor and grandeur, aside from it being in a league of its own, there are any number of basilicas and cathedrals throughout Europe, with architecture to behold and histories to treasure, even if those architectures and histories  fail to rival the architecture and history of Notre Dame. As one who once visited Israel for less than a day and who was adamant that a visit to the Kotel in Jerusalem was non-negotiable, otherwise I would refuse to head back to the airport, I cannot help but wonder whether or not Catholics and non-Catholics  alike, be it in Europe or elsewhere, shouldn’t be finding solace in the fact, that unlike Jews, they are in no way bereft of their one and only spiritual edifice.

To be sure, many Catholics and non-Catholics will be turning to their Father in heaven, as they should, to ask for divine guidance and assistance in rebuilding Notre Dame. To be sure, the Catholic community will be able to rely upon the largesse of the wealthy as they step in, as well as the generosity of the common folk, as they pitch in. In no way, would I be with surprised, if more monies than needed, are amassed for the rebuilding of Notre Dame. In no way, would I be shocked, if many of us live to see a rebuilt Notre Dame of a resplendence, that few, if any, could ever have envisioned  or imagined. And therein lies the difference between the Beit HaMikdash in Jerusalem and Notre Dame, l’havdil in Paris. Whereas it is HaShem, who will ultimately rebuild the Beit HaMikdash with the arrival of Moshiach, it is mere mortals who will rebuild the cathedral in Paris. Stated differently, when it comes to the Temple in Jerusalem, we Jews pray; when it comes to Notre Dame in Paris, Catholics and others pay.

As a concerned outsider who reaches out to the world-wide Catholic community in general, along with the Catholic community in France in particular,  I cannot help but turn to the Catholic community in my capacity as rabbi. I wish you Godspeed in dealing with your recent calamity. Remember however, that a fire has been raging over the cathedrals, basilicas, and churches throughout Europe these last few decades and it is Christianity that has been going up in smoke.

However formidable a task lies ahead with the rebuilding of Notre Dame, there is a far more daunting a task that confronts Christianity. As a consequence of the clutches of secularism spiriting away those who were born to the faithful and baptized in their respective churches as infants, Notre Dame and other places of worship, run the risk of remaining little more than icons. By all means ought Notre Dame be rebuilt to its former glory. At the same time, however Christians must seek to rebuild their following.

We Jews have long since come to terms that our Beit HaMikdash lies in in ruins. For centuries, the rebuilding of the Beit HaMikdash has been part of our daily prays; for centuries the rebuilding of the Beit HaMikdash has been part of our annual Seder. The Beit HaMikdash remains an integral part of our religion just as HaShem remains an integral part of its rebuilding.  In the meantime, we have focused on keeping Judaism strong and vibrant. My wish for my Catholic brethren is that the building materials used to reconstruct Notre Dame be infused with Christian holiness of the highest and purest   order.

 

 

JUDAISM IS DANGEROUS

Farfetched, it isn’t. In fact, it’s quite tempting. The more I think about it, the more I am drawn to construct a course entitled Judaism is Dangerous. As such, I am indebted to Reverend Shelton Gibbs, III; Pulpit minister of Greenville Church of Christ in nearby Richardson, who recently advertised an upcoming course on “Dangerous Isms,” where Judaism appeared alongside Islamism (sic).

Judaism, no different than “Christine,” lehavdil* (the name bestowed upon an indestructible 1958 Plymouth that “starred” in a Stephen King movie of the same name) is indestructible. Judaism is impervious to outside forces. Try as they might, outside forces while successful in destroying Jews, have shown themselves to be powerless when it comes to destroying Judaism. Pope Urban II, the force behind the first Crusade, was a farce when it came to Judaism. Yes, Jewish casualties were in the thousands and yes, although we have no statistics, there were Jews who chose acceptance of Jesus over acceptance of being murdered, but Judaism did not miss a beat. If anything, Judaism grew stronger as survivors looked to HaShem for answers, while the unscathed offered gratitude to HaShem for having come through man’s inhumanity to man, unscathed.

Judaism is resistant to prediction. Whether it is Pew reports or concerned committees at local synagogues, Judaism has shown time and time again that it is oblivious to discussion. Discussions and contingencies have at times proven successful in saving Jews, but totally irrelevant as far as saving Judaism. Instead of conducting studies, better one should study Talmud or this week’s Torah portion. Discussions are the mainstay of Judaism, particularly when the discussion is centered upon what meaning a particular prayer holds for a particular individual. Precious few individuals refrain from reacting to stimuli. Judaism however is far more precious. Never consign Judaism to the foibles of people. Ever!

As a rabbi, I feel it safe to say that more than a few of us are disturbed, to say the least, when we learn of a Jew forsaking Judaism and embracing Christianity. Are we Jews so myopic that we fail to understand that it’s quite possible and even probable that there are Christians and Christian leaders who are equally disturbed when they learn of a Christian embracing Judaism? Do we Jews possess a monopoly when it comes to  feeling a sense of abandonment and perhaps even go so far as to blame ourselves by resorting to the “where did I go wrong” when people forsake our religion? Don’t Christians have every right to ask that same very question? While Christians converting to Judaism, particularly for the sake of marriage, is an American phenomenon, wouldn’t it be fair to say that here in the “Bible Belt,” there is far greater likelihood of Christians seeking out and embracing Judaism for the purest of reasons, in that they feel that Judaism offers them more than Christianity offers them or can offer them? Furthermore, wouldn’t it be also fair to say that such conversions are occurring on a much more frequent basis than ever before? If it was okay for our ancestors to pronounce a “curse on Columbus” and behave in less than respectful manner when passing a church, how proper is it for us to immediately become judgmental before we even know what was meant by the “catchy” titles for the course offerings being offered by Greenville Church of Christ?

Judaism is dangerous, very dangerous. When Jews are threatened or harmed by outside forces, there is an excellent chance that Judaism will grow stronger. Wring your hands if you must, as far as the future of Judaism. Remember, however, that hand-wringers come into this world and take leave of this world, while Judaism perseveres, whether times are good or bad, happy or sad. And if it’s kosher for Jews to look upon Christianity as being dangerous when it is embraced with no ulterior motives by a family member or friend, shouldn’t it be equally kosher for Christians to feel exactly the same way about Judaism, when it is embraced by no ulterior motives by a family member or friend? Judaism – a unique, wonderful and sometimes, even dangerous, religion.

*A comparison that one ought not to make.